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Spot the difference

Mention Laing and stadiums to seasoned construction watchers and the next word will be Cardiff.

Building the Welsh capital's Millennium Stadium two years ago cost the contractor a reputed £30M loss and enough angst over design problems, third party wrangles and construction congestion to leave directors naturally wary to take on another stadium contract. But, according to the Manchester site team, the two projects are like chalk and cheese.

'Here we had no third parties or space restrictions and had a well developed design before we even started, ' recalls engineering manager Neil Kitchener, who also worked on the Cardiff contract.

The main difference though is the design and build contract form.

Cardiff 's guaranteed maximum price is replaced at Manchester by a two stage, fixed price, lump sum contract that appears to lower contractual risk.

The initial stage of what is effectively a management contract is for Laing to let enough of the 50 or so separate works packages to ensure 80% price certainty. Only then do client and contractor sign the formal D&B contract.

Now a third of the way into its three year contract, Laing has yet to reach that signing stage. And, even though over half the works packages have been awarded, including all the major structural work, Laing is effectively still operating under a service agreement.

'But in practice we are clearly undertaking the main work and actually signing the contract is not that important at this stage, ' claims Lumberg.

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