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EPC vs. EPCM in Construction Projects: Limiting Costs, Assessing Risks, and Determining Contractor Involvement

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will discuss the differences between engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts and engineering, procurement, construction, and management (EPCM) contracts in large construction projects. The panel will discuss the varying roles of the lead contractor in both environments, how risks and liabilities are attributed, and why making the wrong choice in structuring a project may have high long-term costs.


Continued supply chain disruptions are intensifying existing challenges in the construction market, such as fragmentation, low profitability, and concerns shared by owners and contractors alike about time and budget overruns, lengthy claims procedures, and escalating disputes. Effective claims management and dispute avoidance are paramount during these extraordinary times and will require an elevated level of constructive engagement between all parties, and where possible, creativity and flexibility from all stakeholders.

Understanding the risks and benefits of a project's management and procurement structure is critical to effective claims management and dispute mitigation. Although EPC and EPCM contracts have been used in the construction sector for many years, there remains confusion about the differences between these contracts, the role each party is required to play, and when to use one arrangement over the other. The fundamental difference is the role of the EPC or EPCM contractor.

EPC contracts provide a fixed cost and limitations on change orders, as well as hard deadlines. While this benefits owners and developers, it puts contractors at risk due to potential delays and cost overruns. In contrast to the EPC model, the EPCM contractor is not directly involved in building and constructing the project but is instead responsible for the detailed design and overall management of the project on behalf of the owner or principal. The EPCM contractor has a duty to ensure that the project's engineering and design comply with the project's technical and functional specifications.

For projects in the early stages of selecting a procurement and management strategy, both EPC and EPCM have advantages and disadvantages but can be beneficial when used in the right circumstances. The objectives, scope of work, and risk profile should be clearly understood in choosing which method to use as the cost implications of choosing the incorrect form can be substantial for both parties.

Likewise, for projects already well underway and facing mounting delays, cost overruns, and other challenges due to supply chain breakdowns due to COVID-19 disruptions or other causes, the best solutions to these problems may vary depending on whether the lead contractor has EPC or EPCM responsibilities.

Listen as our panel of construction practitioners addresses the EPC and the EPCM contracts' ins and outs and provides guidance on when to utilize these agreements. The panel will discuss critical clauses, how to mitigate contractor liability, and when each contact should be utilized.



  1. EPC
    1. Contracts with subs and vendors
    2. Fixed costs
    3. Assumed risks of contractor
  2. EPCM
    1. Services agreements
    2. Supervising, management, and coordinating construction interface
    3. Cost-reimbursable fee structure
    4. Scheduling


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages when utilizing an EPC vs. an EPCM contract for large construction projects?
  • How can the scope of work and pricing in EPC contracts be clarified to mitigate risks?
  • What risks do owners and contractors assume under EPCM contracts?
  • How do the differences between an EPC and an EPCM contract impact related project procurement strategy considerations?
  • What factors should construction counsel consider when tailoring an EPC or EPCM contract to a particular project?


Cahalan, Scott
Scott D. Cahalan

Smith Gambrell & Russell

Mr. Cahalan has substantial experience representing owners, contractors, subcontractors, engineers, architects,...  |  Read More

James, Robert A.
Robert A. James

Partner; Co-Leader, Projects Team
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Mr. James is co-leader of the Energy Transition practice group of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, resident in both...  |  Read More

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