International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS)


What is the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS)?

The International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) is a cost classification system which provides a structure and format for classifying, defining, measuring, analysing and presenting construction costs that will provide consistency and transparency across international boundaries.

It was launched recently by the International Construction Measurement Standards Coalition which is represented by a wide range of professional organisations around the world such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS)Indian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (IIQS)Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to name a few.

The ICMS can be downloaded here.

Why was it launched? 

Currently there are inconsistent cost reporting practices all over the world. A similar project built in 10 different countries will have 10 different price tags! This can lead to cost variations in the range of millions of dollars. This will further lead to poor decision-making by increasing risk and waste and also act as a hindrance on development and investment by various international organisations such as the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, various regional development banks, non-governmental
organisations and the United Nations. So a need was felt to ensure global consistency in presenting the entire cost of construction projects. As a result the Coalition was formed which prepared the ICMS.

ICMS in detail:

The ICMS provides definitions, scope, attributes and values, units of measurement and explanatory notes for each type of Project. It provides guidance on:

  • how the Standards are to be used
  • the level of detail to be included
  • the method of dealing with Projects comprising different Sub-Projects and
  • the approach to be taken to ensure that like is compared with like, especially considering different currencies and time frames.

For buildings, it is linked with the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS) to overcome inconsistencies in measurement of the floor areas which are used to determine the cost per area.

ICMS framework

The ICMS has a hierarchial framework or a work break-down structure (WBS) as follows:

  • Level 1: Project or Sub-Project
  • Level 2: Cost Category
  • Level 3: Cost Group
  • Level 4: Cost Sub-Group



Level 1: A Project may be divided into a number of Sub-projects if it cannot be described by a single set of Project Attributes and Project Values. E.g. A township project may have several sub-projects such as Apartments, Roads and motorways, Water treatment works etc.

Level 2: There are 3 main Cost Categories viz. Capital Construction Costs, Associated Capital Costs and Site Acquisition & Other costs. The current format of ICMS has no provision for the running costs or the Operations & Maintenance (O&M) costs which will be incorporated in the future editions.

Capital Construction Costs includes expenditure on labour, materials, plant, equipment, site and head office overheads and profit, including taxes and levies,
incurred as a direct result of the construction intervention. It is the total price payable for work normally included in contracts to construct a building or civil engineering works, including any supplies by the Client for the Constructor to fix. It also includes all temporary works required to undertake the construction works.

Associated Capital Costs includes the payments, fees and charges payable for work and utilities off-site, post completion furniture, furnishing and equipment, and construction-related consultancies and supervision, but excluding costs associated with land acquisition and client’s other costs associated with the realisation of the Project.

Site Acquisition and Client’s Other Costs includes all payments required to acquire the site, excluding physical construction, and all other expenses associated with project
realisation, from inception to putting the Project into use, and which are not part of the Capital Construction Costs or Associated Capital Costs.

Total Capital Cost = Capital Construction Costs + Associated Capital Costs + Site Acquisition and Client’s Other Costs 

Level 3: The Cost Categories are futher broken down into a small number of broad groups known as Cost Groups to enable easy estimation or extraction of cost data for quick high-level comparison.

The Cost Categories at Level 2 and Cost Groups at Level 3, as given in Table below, are mandatory and standardised for all Projects to enable high-level comparison between different Projects and Sub-Projects.

cost groups

Level 4: Cost Group are further divided into Cost Sub-Group according to their functions or common purposes irrespective of their design, specification, materials or construction to enable the costs of alternatives serving the same function or common purpose to be compared, evaluated and selected.

The ICMS does not mandate the classification of the Cost Sub-Groups but provides examples of what might be included in appendices A to D.

Cost codes are assigned to the ICMS hierarchy down to Level 4. However, the cost codes at Level 4 may be suitably adjusted.

The ICMS provides certain appendices and schedules. They are described further.

Schedule 1: Project Attributes and Project Values – These are information describing the principal characteristics of each Project or Sub-Project. ICMS has given some Common attributes applicable for all types of projects and some specific attributes applicable to the specific types of projects or sub-projects. Example of Common attributes are Project title, Construction period, Site conditions and constraints, pricing method etc.

Schedule 2: Substructure and Structure Delineation – It gives the classification between the Substructure and Structure part of different types of projects with the help of graphics. Example, for Buildings with and without basement, it is given as below.



Appendix A to D gives examples of what might be included in the Cost Sub-Groups for Building, Civil Engineering Works, Associated Capital Costs and Site Acquisition and Client’s Other Costs respectively.

Process Flow Charts to Collect Project Information and to determine Total Project Cost are provided in Appendix E.

Reporting Templates for single Projects, comparison between two design schemes and Project with Sub-Projects are provided in Appendix F.


Reference: International Construction Measurement Standards: Global Consistency in Presenting Construction Costs, July 2017, 1st edition




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