As the UK heads towards ‘Lockdown’ being lifted, at least in part, as previously advised, we are confident that irrespective of the goodwill generated by ‘all being in it together’ and the unprecedented circumstances of Coronavirus and its impact on UK (and worldwide) construction, once the restrictions are lifted, the industry will be tempted to revert to type.
Project programmes, the commercial position, payments and all the usual contractual consequences will surface as sources of conflict, dispute and claim.
The natural focus will be on re-starting, catching up as much as possible and getting the project over the line. This is, of course, the priority, but in the heat of battle, it will be easy for all parties to overlook getting things in order as to what the position was, when the site closed (partially or fully), or what the status of the job is now, as it is reanimated.
What is certain: projects will be later than expected, and costs will have risen – extended prelims, inefficiencies in labour and staff under ‘Social Distancing’, longer lead times on materials, changes of scope and content caused by supply chain issues, additional security and temporary works arising from closing sites, will all be contentious and sources of disagreement and misunderstanding.
So, what can the various parties involved be doing to mitigate and minimise these impacts?
As before, we anticipate a new set of rules and conventions in the era of the ‘New Normal’, which it is hoped will start a new dawn in construction. However, experience tells us, that in our conservative industry, it has always been the case – each will see it as someone else’s fault and someone else’s responsibility to pay. And the recent crisis will fade and by the time most contracts are completed, it will be a distant memory overtaken by the fact that, as far as the client is concerned, as is still too often the case, the job is late, over budget and not what was expected.