Construction professionals won't want to be without these new guides – even if they do have to get a hernia picking up the first, Emden's Construction Law
Do you remember those newspaper advertisements umpteen years ago for Charles Atlas bodybuilding? I do wish I had taken that biceps bulging course. I will tell you why in a moment. First, though, let me tell you about Emden's Construction Law, the new ninth edition. It is simply the best explanation of building and civil engineering law ever, anywhere, anytime. It is a must for those who need to know, really know, about construction industry law, and have 600 mm of spare shelf space. Truth to tell, my Emden now covers 1800 mm of shelf space because I have the old and new editions.

I wouldn't dream of throwing out the old.

The original work of AE Emden was published in 1882. It was in textbook form, single volume. The seventh edition was in 1968. The eighth began as a two-volume jobby. The law was in volume one, and a few standard form contracts were analysed in volume two. It grew over the years to six volumes in one complete set. When that 1990 edition arrived, it was by now in loose-leaf binder volumes. Ugly brown things, so clumsy and so shaped that it took two hands to lift one volume off the shelf. I rather fell out with Emden's at this stage. I detest loose-leaf. Worse still, I couldn't find my way around the binders. The index became hopelessly wrong as soon as updated sections were filed in the binders. And yet, here on my shelf was a goldmine.

The ninth edition is a complete revamp. Those damnable loose-leaf binders are in use but I can find my way through all five volumes much more easily. Volumes two to five contain standard form contracts, including professional service contracts (architect's appointments and so on) and comment. Volume one is principles of contract law by reference to decided cases. No fewer than 14 practising barristers and solicitors write the work, headed by Andrew Bartlett QC. His team won't let you down. The cost is £199 for two volumes and then £99 for updates.

Vital? Yes. Buy? Yes. As for Charles Atlas and his bodybuilding course, you will need his muscles to carry even one volume about. Come on Butterworths Tolley, you must put all this on a CD-Rom for me and with a search engine too.

Weighing in at the other end of the scales is a nice little addition to the Construction Companions series from RIBA Enterprises. This is the fourth guide in the collection and is called Extensions of Time. It is 90 pages of hints and tips for, I suppose, architects whose standard task under JCT-style contracts is to award extensions of time once the end date in the contract comes under threat. It is the second edition from solicitor Gillian Birkby and surveyor Paul Brough.

As for Charles Atlas and his bodybuilding course, you will need his muscles to carry even one volume of Construction Law about

Another guide from RIBA Enterprises is 35 pages of Adjudication for Architects, a free electronic publication. It is by solicitor Nick Henchie of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. He describes adjudication as a "holding" process.

This means, I think, that it is a binding interim decision imposed on two parties to a dispute before that dispute goes on to the traditional places for a final decision – unless the parties decide to quit there and then. Henchie reminds architects that the process is available at the architect's wish if a quarrel breaks out about fees owed between the client and architect. On the other hand, it is open to a client to adjudicate on a claim for breach of contract by the architect. There is a similar reminder that a subcontracted part of the architect's work is within adjudication's scope. Frequently the architect will become involved in adjudication between contractor and employer. Then there are those architects who actually become adjudicators. Henchie's little guide holds the architect's hands by gently explaining the way the whole process works. Helpfully, and more importantly, he also explains how we need an actual dispute, not a mere claim, before we can begin adjudication.

I part company with him on the idea that an ambush by the claimant is easily achieved. Many adjudicators won't let that happen any more.

  • Emden's Construction Law available for £199 from