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Storing up troubles

Regarding Bob McGowan's recent letter (NCE 24 April), the civils family of contracts gives a much better approach to disputes than the building family in two respects.

First, the civils approach requires the contractor, and not just the client's quantity surveyor, to quantify a claim.

This goes a long way towards moderating a claim which is made in hope or frustration rather than in confidence. Second, there is a series of steps in the civils contracts before one reaches the nuclear option of arbitration.

Each one gives the opportunity for the Engineer to state a valuation, and the contractor must decide whether the potential increase on that valuation is worth the additional hassle.

In both families of contracts, life will ultimately be much easier if a claim is dealt with promptly rather than saving up everything for a huge reckoning at the end, when many of the staff who know the facts may have moved on.

The NEC suite of contracts may make it easier to follow these principles, but the powers were always there if the Engineer was prepared to use them. However, all too often he would defer the day of reckoning and heap up future trouble.

MIKE KEATINGE, Highbank, Marston Road, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 4BL

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