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We should lead our teams by example

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Paul Hyett's 'Nightmare on Adjudication Street' (aj 2.7.98) recalls similar tales of impending doom and woe in respect of cdm. In reality, for most sensible-thinking practitioners in construction, cdm has become a not overly burdensome verification and validation procedure on our activities, which we should have been carrying out anyway, assuming that we are managing our projects in a professional and efficient manner.

Turning to adjudication and the siren voices hailing us from the depths of low fee scales, the scenario of the pile cap is unlikely to arise de facto as described, unless of course the adjudicator is not acting in good faith. But he has to do so: as with cdm and the role of the 'ps', the adjudicator must be aware of his own shortcomings, lack of expertise etc, and is able to seek specialist advice.

Rather than looking to your pii, look to your contracts. It has been suggested by valued legal opinion - and there is nothing in the Act to stop you - that you can through the contract conditions: (a) control the distinction of the 'dispute' by insisting on the 'failure' of a prescribed procedure of conciliation (which of course may succeed) as the only way by which the parties may agree that the dispute indeed exists (ie forewarned); and (b) you may clearly define and/or limit the scope and content of any referral notice (ie forearmed) such that the element of surprise is severely diminished if not altogether extinguished.

Moving on to the extensions of time, it strikes me that if our architect is properly managing the matrix of sub-projects that go to make up the whole of any one project then the 'ambush' is nought but a bag o' wind. If formal and verified design management (ie drawings) and design change control (ie v/os and a/is) procedures are in place and being maintained, then the likelihood of ambush is diminished and the defence already identified.

In a nutshell, if the architect is running the job professionally and administering the contract correctly, and charging an economic fee, he should sleep peacefully. Architects have always had a duty to 'maintain a level of preparedness' - it's only good project management - and if we are not already protecting our employers' positions I'm sure our insurers would be horrified as it can only mean we are exposed! While the adjudicator may open up and review etc, he does not have the right nor the power to alter, override or modify the conditions of the contract; not even the courts can do that.

Finally, I feel that the general continuing assumption of the 'unscrupulous contractor' lying in ambush together with the 'chaotic' surveyor not only somewhat old-hat but worryingly elitist and damaging to our natural authority within the construction team. We cannot do it on our own; we cannot do it dictatorially - we can do it properly and we can lead the team if we command respect by example rather than demanding it in ignorance or fear.


Fulbourn, Cambridge

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