A panel of experts has been appointed to stop unseemly rows on the 2012 projects before they even start. Surely they will need superhuman powers? Or just some common sense?
I bet David Higgins, the Olympic Delivery Authority chief, is chuffed to bits with his press release yesterday. “Delivering the venues and infrastructure for London 2012 is a project of unprecedented scale and complexity equivalent to building two Heathrow Terminal 5s in half the time”.
Do you think his media folk came up with that happy analogy before the grand opening of Terminal 5? Hope so. Can you imagine the Olympic opening being just as successful as the T5 opening?
The real pat on the back for Higgins is to invent the IDAP. It means Independent Dispute Avoidance Panel. It is a contender for a gold medal for... well... avoiding disputes. And you will say “how?”.
Truth is, I don’t know. We do have a mission statement though: “This independent panel will help us and our contractors work together to identify and resolve potential issues early”. And you will say “how?".
We do have a rider to the mission statement though: “to ensure that the London 2012 projects are completed on time and within budget and enhance the reputation of UK construction”. And you will say “how”?
Fortunately the chairman of IDAP is the man credited with inventing the Olympic standard form building contract, the NEC contract. And his name is Dr Martin Barnes. My bet is that he and his 10 IDAP panel members are first going to hold free training courses about “how to understand the NEC form”, then how to use it, and then how to avoid disputes under it.
Actually those contractors who want to do the piling, plastering and painting and more besides will do doubt be obliged to attend. It’s free after all. Then on the seventh day of the course will be the exam paper. Well, actually, two exam papers of three hours each. No plasterer will win work without achieving a 45% pass mark in NEC law of contract. The other 50% is for being a good plasterer.
Mind you, one option is to do as every other building site does and that is to ignore the contract altogether but that won’t satisfy IDAP at all.
I've got more bright ideas for IDAP:
(1) Get the putter upperer to do the putter uppering;
(2) Get the architect to design and specify, meaning tell the putter upperer what to build;
(3) Ban putter upperers from designing the putter uppering and worse inventing his own specification;
(4) Get structural engineers (the ones with all those letters after their names) to design the structure;
(5) Get mechanical engineers (the ones with all those letters after their names) to design the M&E;
(6) Then please don’t leave “design development” to the putter upperer.
See the idea? There’s more. For heaven’s sake get a price for a parcel of work from the finished design and specification.
There’s more. Stop passing the contractual risk to get the Olympics done on time and to budget down to that little old plasterer. Stuff happens on building sites. Keep the risk at the top end, avoid disputes, keep the risk in Higgins’ office and avoid a T5 in four years time.