Back to the future: JCT’s 90-year history provides platform for next generation of digital contracts

2021 marks the 90th year since the formation of JCT. 1931 was in many respects a ground-breaking year for the construction industry. Whilst mention of the use of standard forms of construction contract goes back to the 19th Century, the creation of JCT formally recognised the need within the building industry for a standard process of entering into a contract that minimised the outlay of costly bespoke provisions, fairly apportioned risk, and included benchmark sets of provisions that reflected precedent.

Such was this cultural shift that ninety years on, and despite the myriad additions of procurement methods, other forms of contract, and providers, a standard form of contract remains the way in which almost all building projects are procured.

JCT was there at the start and continues to adapt, add, refine, and develop to set the standard for construction contracts, focusing on providing modern contract products and services for a modern construction industry.

Concepts that are well known nowadays within the industry, such as ‘collaboration’, ‘best practice’, ‘modernisation’, can be traced through JCT’s history.

It was recognised that for a form of contract to accurately reflect the requirements of the industry, the input of all sectors of the industry that contributed to the contract process was crucial. In perhaps one of the earliest examples of a specifically ratified collaborative project, JCT’s organisation, which includes clients, contractors, specialists, consultants, and sub-contractors, works together to ensure that the changing needs of the industry are met with each edition of the JCT contract suite.

This collaborative effort is vital to JCT’s identity and function, and makes it unique within the industry as a contract authoring body.

Throughout its ninety years, JCT has retained its status as the UK’s leading provider of contract documentation, by continually modernising, developing, and reflecting changing industry practices. The current edition (JCT 2016) includes some 90 documents, encompassing standard forms of main and sub-contract for each of the key procurement methods used by the industry, as well as guidance documents, homeowner contracts, partnering documentation, collateral warranties, and agreements.

Alongside the contracts, JCT plays an important role to provide information, education, and training resources in respect of the contract process, improving the use and understanding of contracts at all levels of the industry.

Today, one of JCT’s primary objectives is assisting the industry with its transition to digital working, and ensuring that a flexible range of options is available for construction professionals working with contracts.

Currently, the entire suite of the JCT 2016 Edition is available via the JCT On Demand digital service.

JCT On Demand has revolutionised the digital approach to construction contracts, providing ease of access and use, security, transparency, and convenience. It is designed for users who want instant access to their JCT contract, to be guided through each section to make sure it is completed comprehensively, but are not looking to make bespoke changes or amendments to the contract text.

The system also enables the saving and printing of drafts, the printing out of a professional plain copy for signing, and the ability to generate a comparison document, clearly identifying the user’s input text against the published JCT text, always ensuring full transparency between the parties to the contract.

The JCT Online Store – the gateway to JCT’s digital services, enables customers to purchase JCT On Demand contracts just as easily as ordering the traditional, hard-copy document.

JCT’s other digital service, JCT Construct, is a powerful, feature-rich digital contract subscription service that combines one of the most comprehensive and complex sets of legal documents with the ability to make bespoke changes and amendments.

JCT Construct’s tools enable the editing of the JCT contract text itself, with the ability for users to add their own clauses, or other customised text. Guest sharing functionality supports collaborative working amongst those involved in the contract drafting to share and edit drafts.

Version-to-version comparison allows any changes between draft versions and against the published JCT text to be seen. Utilising the same intuitive system as JCT On Demand, JCT Construct offers the same ease of use, security, transparency between parties, and ability for printing final clean copies for signature.

JCT Construct is the ultimate digital tool for experienced contract users who have their own specific schedules of amendments and bespoke changes. It enables parties to the contract to be able to rely on JCT expertise and be able to work flexibly and collaboratively to define their project.

The impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic presents one of the most challenging times for the construction industry in JCT’s 90-year history. However, JCT is committed to continuing its legacy of excellence and supporting the industry with reliable contract products backed by all those years of expertise.

At the same time, we continue to support a modern industry through our collaborative approach – listening to the industry and making sure that our products and services play a key role in delivering the future of the built environment.

More information about JCT’s digital services is available at