FLEXIBILITY AND a commitment to tackling problems early are key advantages of the New Engineering Contract (NEC) suite of contracts, said the head of an industry panel that has steered the contract's third edition to its publication last month.
'One of the fundamental points of the contract is that it's about avoiding confrontation, ' says Peter Higgins, chair of the group responsible for tweaks and alterations to NEC3.
If a problem comes to light, all sides are obliged to hold discussions to arrive at the best course of action.
Higgins compares this favourably with previous methods: 'In the bad old days something would happen and both parties would stand back after the event, whereas now we look at dealing with problems before they come up.' Although NEC was used on major projects including the UK's Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Heathrow Terminal 5 and the Eden Project, Higgins said it could be used on a whole range of jobs. 'There are significant benefi s in having a family of contracts, all of which work in exactly the same way.' The NEC panel drew on expertise from across the construction sector, with input from quantity surveyors, architects, lawyers, academics and contract specialists as well as civil engineers.
Higgins said a guiding principle of the working party was to avoid horse trading, with members focused on achieving the best possible contract rather than the best deal for their individual area of interest.
He cited the introduction of a new framework contract and a service contract as good additions to the existing suite.
Minor amendments have also been made to improve clarity.
'We have identifi d a few areas where people aren't sure of what they should be doing.
We have looked into these points to help people understand it and apply the contract better.' Higgins also hopes the introduction of a 'risk register' will link with the existing early warning mechanisms to ensure a continued smooth ride for projects.