The National Federation of Builders has formed a partnership with BuildOnline, an Internet portal, to encourage members to take e-commerce more seriously.

BuildOnline is providing a series of seminars for the NFB's 4000 members on how the Internet can cut the cost of tendering, purchasing and document management. BuildOnline handles all three.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the National Federation of Builders and managing director of Baxall Construction, said: "We looked at a number of different options and BuildOnline came top in the way they were developing.

"Companies are looking to see how they can become more cost-effective through better communications."

E-commerce is in its infancy among small builders, but Clarke hopes that the NFB's tie-up with BuildOnline will encourage firms to become involved in pilot studies.

Clarke added: "In my own company, we are looking to expand the use of computer systems and to improve the cost of purchasing and the immense cost of transferring documents at the tender stage."

Clarke hopes that NFB members using BuildOnline will receive a discount but says such details have yet to be settled. The NFB is not tied in exclusively with BuildOnline, and members are free to use rival portals.