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Construction projects tend to be one-offs. A project team comes together to create a unique development on a particular site under circumstances that will never be repeated.
They are very complex, requiring the co-ordination of permissions, people, goods, plant and materials and construction can begin despite many ‘unknown’ matters such as incomplete design information, uncertain site conditions, suppliers and so on. As a consequence delays are common.
In Modernising Construction: Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, published in 2001, the National Audit Office found that 70% of government construction projects were delivered late.
Delays might be caused by:
- The uniqueness of the project.
- Speed of decision making.
- Poor or unrealistic scheduling.
- Poor communication.
- Lack of information.
- Labour productivity.
- Availability of resources.
- Adversarial relationships.
- Third party dependencies.
- Lack of finance.
- Availability of the site.
- Site conditions.
Delays can be minimised by:
- Detailed site investigations.
- Careful monitoring and regular meetings.
- Effective site management.
- Collaborative working and effective coordination.
- Careful scheduling.
- Full commitment to the project by all parties.
 Types of delay
Very broadly, there are two types of delay
- Delays in activities for which there is programme float available (i.e. they can be delayed without impacting on the completion date).
- Delays that will impact on the completion date.
Construction contracts tend provide for four categories of delay:
- Delays resulting from neutral causes.
- Delays that are the fault of the client.
- Delays that are the fault of the contractor.
- Concurrent delays.
 Delays resulting from neutral causes
Neutral events (which may be 'relevant events'), which are not the fault of either party might entitle the contractor to an extension of time. Typically this might include:
- Exceptionally adverse weather.
- Civil commotion or terrorism.
- Statutory undertaker’s work.
- Force majeure (such as a war or an epidemic).
- A specified peril such as flood.
- National strikes.
- Changes in statutory requirements.
- Delays in receiving permissions that the contractor has taken reasonable steps to avoid.
This does not necessarily entitle the contractor to claim loss and expense.