Bill Brown of Hampshire based consulting civil and structural engineering company WFBA is one of a few experts in the region who undertake independent forensic investigations that help to determine what mistakes have been made, either during the design or construction on site, when a project is subject to a legal dispute. Due to the in-depth focus and effort required, he tries to limit his time to four investigations a year on behalf of clients or solicitors.
Very few of the claims reach the specialist court, the Technology and Construction Court in London, as many are settled through robust dispute resolution between the parties and their insurers to avoid the huge costs of litigation. Bill, with over 40 years’ experience as a structural engineer, says that it is often found that insufficient communication between the main three parties, project client, the design team and the building contractor, to be the main cause of the problem eventually leading to a dispute once the building becomes the subject of arbitration.
“Many cases show that there has been a lack of clarity between the parties involved, with no clear lines of communication and responsibilities flowing through the design and construction phases. The construction and design teams should always work close together as extremely expensive problems can occur if this is not the case. It is very much in the best interest of the client to ensure that his design team are properly engaged and frequent inspections are made as work progresses to ensure design integrity is maintained,” said Bill Brown. “Often the investigation finds an element of blame across all the parties involved due to a series of errors and what can largely be considered as innocent mistakes, there is not always absolute guilt. These could be avoided if the proper checks and controls are in place”
WFBA’s Consulting Engineer Paul Todd is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration and will also be called to assess a series of infrastructure related claims every year. Both Bill and Paul ensure that their reports are circulated within their professional team of specialists so that they continually benefit from the findings which help to avoid similar mistakes and the process is useful for validating their own systems.
“Simply by ensuring the design team are not disengaged from the construction stages and frequent audits and inspections are undertaken, potential construction project failures can be rectified before minor problems grow into major claims, even on projects with very tight budgets” confirms Bill.