The history of the FIDIC suite

Fédération Internationale Des Ingénieurs-Conseils1 (FIDIC) was founded in Belgium in 1913. Since then, it has become the foremost representative body for the world’s consulting engineers, with member associations in some 100 countries.

Although the Contracts Committee became one of its earliest constituent parts soon after FIDIC's foundation, it was not until 1957 that the first FIDIC standard form contract was produced.

The first contract, known as the Red Book first edition,2 was not actually drafted by FIDIC but was instead an authorised reproduction, 're-badged' by FIDIC, of the ICE Conditions of Contract fourth edition, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers. This was itself an 'international' contract in the sense that it had been adopted by the Association of Consulting Engineers as such. Although the modern FIDIC forms have developed very significantly since the 1950s, it is still relevant to note that 'The Red Book is based on a domestic contract.'3

These common law origins are still used as a criticism by some commentators, especially in civil law jurisdictions, who are sceptical of FIDIC's entitlement to its paramount position, though the Silver Book, for example, owes relatively little to an English heritage.

Successive editions of the Red Book were issued in 1969,4 19775 and 1988.6

The other long-established FIDIC contract is the Yellow Book,7 first produced in 1963 and with subsequent editions in 19808 and 1987,9 which is the design and build equivalent of the employer design Red Book.

In the mid 1990s, two significant landmarks occurred in the development of the FIDIC contracts. These were the introduction of a turnkey contract—the Orange Book—and the setting up of a task group to produce a major revision of the Red and Yellow Books. These events led to the launch in 1999 of the current editions of the principal FIDIC contracts, known colloquially10 as the ‘Rainbow Suite’, from the colours of the covers of the respective Books: Red, Yellow and Silver.11.