Last edited 11 Oct 2020

Adversarial behaviour in the UK construction industry



[edit] Introduction

The construction industry is often described as being ‘adversarial’, that is, it frequently involves conflict, opposition, confrontation, dispute and even hostility. Indeed, in her autobiography 'Open Secret', published in 2002, Stella Rimmington, the former Director General of MI5, wrote; '...the Thames House Refurbishment was fraught with difficulties. It was clear that dealing with the building industry was just as tricky as dealing with the KGB.'

The evidence of nearly 100 years of reports about the construction industry would seem to support this characterisation:

[edit] How adversarial relationships have developed

There are a number of reasons for the adversarial nature of the industry:

[edit] Possible solutions

A number of collaborative practices have been developed, providing mechanisms that encourage the project team to work together, rather than against one another, sharing risk and knowledge, facilitating collective learning and building trust:

[edit] Partnering

The Latham Report, recommended greater ‘partnering’ to combat the adversarial nature of the industry. Partnering is a broad term used to describe a collaborative management approach that encourages openness and trust. The parties to a contract become dependent on one another for success and this requires changes in culture, attitude and procedures throughout the supply chain.

Partnering is most commonly used on large, long-term or high-risk contracts. However, it can become a paper exercise unless there is proper buy-in throughout the supply chain, and ‘cosy’, inefficient relationships can develop. There is also some criticism that large partnering contracts can exclude smaller companies and so may hamper innovation.

For more information see: Partnering.

[edit] NEC

NEC was first published in 1993 as the New Engineering Contract. It is a suite of construction contracts intended to promote partnering and collaboration between the contractor and client and was developed as a reaction to other more adversarial, traditional forms of construction.

For more information see: NEC.

[edit] Alternative dispute resolution.

Rather than moving straight to litigation when conflicts arise, many construction contracts now provide for alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation, adjudication and arbitration.

Construction is also subject to statutory schemes which impose adjudication procedures in the absence of an appropriate contractual agreement, such as the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009.

For more information see: Alternative dispute resolution.

[edit] Selection criteria.

Suppliers can be selected based on criteria other than just the lowest cost. Alternative procedures include the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT), best value tendering and so on.

For more information see: Selection criteria.

[edit] Integrated supply teams.

The term ‘integrated supply team’ refers to the integration of the complete supply chain involved in the delivery of a project, including the main contractor, designers, sub-contractors, suppliers and so on. Providing services as one entity, rather than a plethora of disparate suppliers, creates a single point of responsibility for the delivery of a project, and binds the suppliers together to achieve a common objective.

For more information see: Integrated project team.

[edit] Fair payment practices

The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 includes provisions to ensure that payments are made promptly throughout the supply chain.

Other fair payment practices include; publication of payment practices, project bank accounts, transparency regarding payment procedures throughout the supply chain, fair payment charters, proper release of retention, prevention of ‘pay when paidpractices and so on.

For more information see: Fair payment practices.

[edit] Other collaborative practices.

Other working practices that can encourage collaboration include:

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki,

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