Construction disputes still as prevalent as ever NBS survey finds

Press Release
16 November 2015

NBS has revealed the results of its third major survey into construction contracts and related legal issues.

Coming at a time when British construction output is stronger than at any point since the 2008 recession, the results show that despite market buoyancy the number of disputes within the construction industry remains unchanged in recent years.

In 2012, 90% of respondents thought the number of disputes in the construction industry had increased or stayed the same, and in this year’s survey that figure was the same, with extensions of time being cited as the main cause.

Whilst during the recession this was attributed to lack of work and low-value contracts only being made profitable through disputes, the changing market suggests this is not the case and that the adversarial legal process is an inherent issue in the construction industry.

Other aspects of the results were more encouraging with 62% of respondents reporting that they have been involved in some collaborative working in the last 12 months and most (81%) believing it enabled information sharing and reduced the number of disputes that arose (65%).

Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been introduced to address one of the major barriers to collaborative working - the lack of clear definition of responsibilities - but the report suggests that the legal framework needs to evolve to recognise and accommodate the changes this brings. Only 14% of those taking part in the survey currently have BIM fully integrated into contracts.

The research also concluded that there have been significant changes in the forms of appointment that people use. The use of bespoke contracts has risen from 42% in 2011 to 51% in 2015 and use of the NEC Professional Services Contract has risen from 15% to 37% over the same period.

Organisations are increasingly using contracts that are better suited to higher value, collaborative projects. Figures provided by NBS suggest that there has been an increase in the use of NEC and FIDIC contracts, whilst use of JCT contracts has fallen.

Adrian Malleson, Head of Research, Analysis and Forecasting at NBS, said:

“The results of the survey offer a valuable insight into an industry that is open to increasingly collaborative working, yet at odds with an often combative legal process. The number of respondents (981), including clients, contractors and consultants offers an all-encompassing view of the industry and will allow each group to better understand the issues facing each other, in the hope each may collaborate better.”

Respondents included members of more than 20 industry bodies, who shared their legal and contractual experience of the last 12 months to provide an overarching view of the construction industry.   NBS has previously conducted this survey in 2011 and 2012 and whilst the economic climate was very different on each occasion the resulting themes remain the same:  the need for collaboration, the damaging effect of disputes and the often adversarial character of construction.

Find out more about the survey and download a full, free copy of the Construction Contracts and Law Survey 2015 report.

For further information please contact:

Robert Pine + 44 (0) 20 7247 8334 / +44(0) 7894 462 342 /

Sarah Rutt + 44 (0) 7885 745 472 /

Jenny Jobs +44 (0) 20 7247 8334 /

About NBS

NBS, specialist providers of technical information for construction industry professionals, offers essential, innovative products and services, highly valued by those working in architecture, construction, design and engineering.

The premier source of construction-related information, NBS has produced the recognised national standard specification system for the UK for over 40 years. It provides solutions for a broad range of new build, refurbishment, retrofit, landscaping and domestic projects for construction professionals. Delivered within a powerful software package, NBS’s specification products continue to develop, leading an evolution of the specification and procurement process for buildings in the UK and overseas. NBS also provides solutions for contract administration and project information management.

NBS produces a range of information delivery products, including The Construction Information Service, a joint venture with IHS. Since 2005, NBS has published the Building Regulations’ Approved Documents for England and Wales. NBS TV provides specialist learning services for individuals and organisations working in the architecture, design and construction industry, offering unique high quality video content.

NBS Create is a ground-breaking new specification tool that ensures all documentation works together intelligently throughout the entire project timeline, from concept stage to completion and beyond, to save time and money.

More than 5,000 offices across the UK subscribe to NBS products, including 96 of the top 100 AJ practices. NBS is part of RIBA Enterprises Ltd, the commercial arm of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). RIBA Enterprises employs 250 staff and has offices in London, Newcastle upon Tyne and Newark.