I refer to your news item and letter from Sir Alan Muir Wood regarding the HEX verdict (NCE 18th February).
Sir Alan is right in stating that the construction of tunnels using NATM techniques requires a highly interactive relationship between design and construction. He states that the 'NEC provides no adequate basis for tunnelling where continuity of design is imperative'.
The NEC does not abandon the concept of design continuity into the construction phase. It is the first standard form of contract to provide explicitly for joint decision making on technical and other matters which might cause problems during the construction phase.
Under the NEC (now the Engineering & Construction Contract), the project manager has the role of making sure, from the employer's point of view, that the project is sensibly managed. That includes the proper involvement of the right people at all times.
The project manager might well be the employer's design engineer, but in any event, he will involve the designer at all relevant stages. This will, of course, include both the employer's and contractor's designers.
The NEC recognises the importance of full interaction between the parties in a positive way not attempted by previous standard conditions. Of major importance in the context of the Heathrow Express - and any other tunnelling contract - is the early warning system. Under this, both parties have a duty to advise the other whenever they find something that is likely to cause problems for themselves or the other party, and co-operate in seeking solutions. The adversarial approach, the cause of so many problems on difficult contracts, is removed. This is one of the fundamental differences in philosophy between the NEC and most other traditional contract forms.
The NEC is the only standard contract which includes a variety of pricing mechanisms so that the one chosen can be that which most effectively produces or permits 'co-operation between design and construction' to the extent which suits the circumstances. Given the information which NEC ensures is available to the designer about the contractor's methods (and the procedures uniquely in the NEC for using it) it is probably the best available standard form for 'optimising
a project and resolving problems.
Finally, the success or otherwise of a project depends on good communications and teamwork and not on the form of contract used in the execution of the works. This is the message we must get across.
A Bhogal (F)
Director Technical and Deputy Secretary, The Institution of Civil Engineers