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Engineers’ longstanding talent for adjudication

In recent years ICE has led significant changes in dispute resolution. In 2008 a process was introduced to set up and run adjudication panels tailored to the needs of large infrastructure projects, with the first panel established for London 2012.

Earlier this year I signed documentation relating to the second such panel, for Crossrail. This year will also see a single publication to rationalise procedures. These developments reflect an interest in the subject that dates back to the origins of civil engineering.

Reputations and trust

The reputations of the great early engineers was often in part based on the trust which their clients and contractors placed in their judgements as arbiters in disputes.

This led to the general adoption of a clause nominating ‘The Engineer’ as arbiter of disputes. In the hands of engineers like Thomas Telford and Joseph Locke a good working relationship with contractors like John Simpson, William Hazledine (Telford) and Thomas Brassey (Locke) seem to have enabled the system to work.
In the case of the young I K Brunel, the notorious cases in which he embroiled the GWR with the contractors Hugh and David McIntosh, and William Ranger, resulting in decades of legal suits, shows how things could go wrong and how construction gained an adversarial reputation that still haunts it.

The contract form adopted by the Metropolitan Board of Works for Bazalgette’s main drainage, reaffirmed the risk of ‘The Engineer’ and was the model for the First Edition of the ICE Conditions of Contract.
In 1993 ICE introduced adjudication as the dispute resolution mechanism Although ICE published a Construction Mediation Procedure in 2002, mediation has not challenged adjudication as the main form of construction dispute resolution.

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