The International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) Contracts Committee recently unveiled the much-anticipated new suite of rainbow contracts, with the publication of amended Red, Yellow and Silver Books. The changes reflect only some of the key amendments introduced by the revised 2017 FIDIC contracts. Nevertheless, the changes are significant and it will undoubtedly take time for contracting parties to become familiar with the revised contracts.
The Supreme Court recently found the well-established regime of registered employment agreements to be unconstitutional. Uncertainty regarding the level of protection for wages and benefits of workers in the construction sector followed this decision, but has now been addressed by the Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector) 2017 and the Sectoral Employment Order (Mechanical Engineering Building Services Contracting Sector) 2018.
Construction contracting has seen significant change in both the private and public sectors, including the introduction of the long-awaited reform of the Public Works Contracts and a definitive date for the operation of the Construction Contracts Act 2013. The act applies to a wide range of construction contracts, including main contracts, subcontracts and professional team appointments entered into after July 25 2016.
Limitation of liability is a hotly negotiated issue in most commercial construction contracts. Parties often rely on the standard form clauses as being tried and tested and drafted with the benefit of industry knowledge. Such reliance can prove hazardous, as it may not adequately deal with the commercial risks of a particular project. Exclusion clauses that significantly limit parties' liability by way of financial caps are generally useful.
Support for building information modelling (BIM) is gathering pace. BIM is regarded as a powerful risk and cost management tool, encouraging better collaboration and improved project delivery. Contractors are already utilising BIM to help them to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. Critics believe that specific BIM clauses and terms should be incorporated into the contract to help avoid potential disputes.
It has been a busy time for the construction industry as the economy picks up and growth in activity levels across a range of sectors brings new opportunities. This new wave of development is taking place alongside regulations and changes to industry practice. New regulation in the sector is welcome, but the breadth of the changes means that all players must keep up to speed with them.
Malaysia witnessed considerable developments in statutory adjudication case law in 2017, probably due to the increasing use of this form of dispute resolution mechanism by stakeholders in the construction industry. This update examines some of the significant decisions that were handed down by the Malaysian courts in 2017 and their impact on statutory adjudication under the Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act.
The Court of Appeal recently considered whether a pay-when-paid clause in a construction contract is void under the Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act. It found that pay-when-paid clauses under a construction contract drawn up before the enactment of the Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act will remain valid and not be affected by the introduction of Section 35, which prohibits any conditional payment clauses in construction contracts.
The Federal Court recently dealt with three broad issues under the Construction Industry Payment and Adjudication Act – namely, jurisdictional challenge, the exclusion of defences and the setting aside and staying of decisions. The decision has broad repercussions for the way that adjudications are conducted in Malaysia.
The 2019 Conditions of Contract for Underground Works (Emerald Book) is a new standard form specifically for underground works that is the result of a lengthy collaboration between the International Federation of Consulting Engineers and the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association. The Emerald Book contains several features aimed at addressing geotechnical uncertainty, including geotechnical baseline reports and mechanisms to adjust the time for completion and contract price.
New Swiss arbitration rules that are intended specifically for construction disputes contain several notable changes that may foreshadow the evolution of international construction arbitration procedures. Some or all of these innovations, which are aimed at improving efficiency and facilitating settlements, may prove to find widespread adoption among parties negotiating international construction contracts and arbitral institutions revising their rules.
Terminating a construction contract is the last resort for employers frustrated by delays, defects or other problems. Three recent Supreme Court cases illustrate some of the pitfalls of termination for employers. In all three cases, the employers' attempt to terminate for cause was construed as termination for convenience, exposing the employers to significant liability towards the contractors, including for lost profits.
Clauses that require a contractor to obtain the employer's pre-approval of the cost of any additional works are increasingly common in lump-sum construction contracts. According to a recent Federal Supreme Court decision, these pre-approval clauses will be applied strictly, subject to certain exceptions. In its decision, the court enforced such a clause to deny a contractor's claim to recover the cost of additional works performed by a subcontractor.
A recent decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that a contractor's duty of loyalty continues even after termination by the employer. When the contractor stops its works for any reason, it has the duty to take all necessary measures to prevent any harm to the employer and must provide to the employer all relevant information about the works.
Resolving construction disputes often involves unravelling complex issues and requires the analyses and opinions of expert witnesses in various industries relating to the project. Therefore, retaining an expert consultant as soon as litigation is imminent can be the difference between a party's pursuit or defence of construction litigation claims. To best utilise the leverage and advantages that non-testifying consultants offer, parties should retain legal counsel who are aware of the role that timing plays in expert retention.
Construction project schedules often generate disputes between project owners and contractors. These disputes commonly become the subject of claims that assign fault for delayed project completion to one party or another. When delays occur and float is available, each party may assume entitlement to the float on the project schedule and subsequent exemption from liability for damages relating to its delay; however, merely assuming float ownership can lead to unfavourable outcomes.
If a trade contractor submits a bid that a general contractor relies on to win a contract, questions may arise as to whether that bid is a contract and whether it is binding. Even if the bid does not meet the elements of a contract, it can still be binding. The courts apply the doctrine of promissory estoppel to hold parties to their bids in the absence of a contract. Differences in jurisdiction and in the facts of each case may affect the outcome, but when a bid is submitted it should be assumed to be binding.
Underground utilities and pipelines pose potential problems for excavators and other contractors performing work below ground. Whether a business involves the construction of buildings primarily above ground or running pipes or cables below, there are issues to consider where a construction involves excavations. Ultimately, excavators must use care to avoid damaging marked lines and take all reasonable steps to protect underground facilities, pipelines and on-site people from harm.
The 13th Court of Appeals in Edinburg, Texas recently issued an opinion that could eliminate the statutory employer protection for general contractors in certain circumstances if allowed to stand. The court held that in order to avail itself of the statutory employer defence, a general contractor must do something more than pass the onus of obtaining workers compensation coverage to its subcontractor. General contractors may need to rethink how they provide for workers' compensation coverage in future.