Disputes still prevalent despite Government emphasis on collaboration
9 July 2012
The number of disputes in the UK construction industry has not reduced and partnering has still not been widely adopted in spite of the Government efforts. These are the key findings of major new survey into contracts and legal issues undertaken by NBS.
92% of the 1,000+ respondents said that the number of disputes had either increased or stayed at the same level, with the current state of the economy being cited most frequently as the likely cause.
These views are borne out by the fact that almost one quarter of those taking part in the survey had themselves been involved in a dispute during 2011. Most commonly, these disputes (86%) were between the client and main contractor, with the primary causes being extension of time and valuation of variations.
Partnering - which has been vaunted as the way to reduce disputes for many years - is still not being widely used by the industry. Only 6% of those who took part used a form of partnering or alliancing on all projects in 2011, while more than one-third were not involved in any form of collaborative working during the same period.
Questions about procurement and contract forms showed that traditional forms of contract (67%) still dominate, with single stage competitive tendering being the most widely used (78%). In today's technology dominated environment, more than 40% of consultants and clients are still not using electronic tendering in any form.
The research also highlighted the ongoing use of bespoke contracts rather than standard forms. Although standard contracts are still used in the majority of cases, almost one quarter of projects undertaken by those questioned used bespoke documentation.
Given that 20 years ago, the Latham report concluded: "Endlessly refining existing conditions of contract will not solve adversarial problems. Public and private sector clients should begin to phase out "bespoke" documents-, this appears to be a lesson not yet fully learned.
Undertaken by NBS with the help of the membership of more than 20 industry bodies, the survey is the most wide-ranging independent review of contractual and legal issues throughout the industry to date. Those providing responses to the wide ranging questionnaire include contractors and clients, as well as consultants.
Richard Waterhouse, Chief Executive of NBS's parent company, RIBA Enterprises said: "It is disappointing to see how relatively little seems to have changed since the publication of the Latham report back in 1994.
"It's clear that the Government is expecting greater efficiencies within our sector. These can best be made through increasing collaborative working between all members of the design and construction team and the adoption of enabling technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM).
"Given the exponential rise in the adoption of BIM it will be fascinating to see how responses to our survey change over the coming few years."
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