Buy the first book first. It is called Tenders and Contracts for Building and is by the Aqua Group, priced £13.99 from Blackwell Science. This is the brand new third edition. The Aqua Group is an odd name for this successful author, who is in fact six architects, one builder, one QS and another who is both architect and QS. But don’t hold that against them; they have the measure of the building business.
The book looks at procurement not so much from the legal contract as from the general contractual arrangements. It looks at options for procurement relationships between client and contractor, although I sense their point of view is that of the client. I wasn’t confident in its conclusion that: “Although everything written here is in terms of a contract between client and main contractor, it is equally applicable to a contract between a main contractor and a subcontractor.” Can someone who is seven-ninths an architect know much about subcontracting?
This first book is about the eternal triangle. From the client’s point of view, the agenda in construction is cost, quality and time. The snag is, clients want the highest quality at the lowest cost in the shortest time. Daft, of course. There has to be a compromise. And there you have this nice little book summed up. It’s about what to do about the three sides of the triangle once you decide which side is priority. The objective is to devise tendering procedure and contractual arrangements to give best value for money in the circumstances. Perhaps every architect should give a copy to each client at the outset – but not before he or she has read it first.
The second book is a tour de force. It is an 800-page whopper wholly about procurement law. Procurement Law for Construction and Engineering Works and Services by RW Craig is also from Blackwell Science, priced £99.50. It takes you through 900 decided cases, more than 150 statutes, codes and regulations, and not only through the law in England, but into Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and South Africa.
Did the breach cause this loss? Time and again it doesn’t. Dunn knows this too, and by golly so will you if you read him
The legal emphasis on procurement starts with the bid process. It explains offers, counter offers and getting into contract in the traditional, though sometimes tortuous, tender process. It touches on the fraudulent behaviour of those with no intention of awarding contracts to anyone. There is a great deal said on shenanigans between bid and contract placing. Then it moves on to bonds and guarantees – which is well done – but the letter of intent chapter is a let-down. There is a huge amount said for public body tendering.
Craig’s style is excellent; he writes in plain English and his system is clever. He is not a lawyer, but a Chartered Institute of Building man with a masters degree in construction law. Although he writes for lawyers, he also writes for contractors, subcontractors and consultants. If you want to be a professional builder, buy him.
My third book is a paperback at £18 (£15 for students). It is called The Law of Damages by barrister and QS Stewart Dunn, from Net Law Books (www.damages.freeserve.co.uk). All you technical arbitrators and adjudicators and all you consultants up to your necks in disputomania – do invest in this great little book. Dunn is a construction industry man who has taken the important principles surrounding damages and makes them easy to understand.
Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator specialising in construction. You can write to him at 3 Paper Buildings, Temple, London EC4Y 7EU, or e-mail him on email@example.com.