Disputes are a very real part of the construction process. Being aware of the common causes of construction disputes can help avoid or decrease the impact of the dispute on the project. We discuss two common issues below.
Because no project vision is perfect, construction projects often involve additional work or changes in the work. Construction contracts generally require that any changes to the work involving increased time or money be documented in a writing signed by both parties. Project participants often fight over whether additional money is owed, the amount of money owed, and/or the extra time necessary. To make matters worse, sometimes the contractor proceeds with the change without authorization. At the end of the project, the parties still have to attribute responsibility for the extra time and money spent.
Interpreting plans and specifications also creates disputes. Here, the contractors must interpret the work of the design professionals. But the plans and specifications can often be ambiguous or even inconsistent. Contractors can request clarification by submitting a Request for Information (RFI) to the design professional. Ideally, RFIs occur during the bidding process or early in the construction process to decrease any delays or rework. However, this process often fails from top to bottom: The contractor submits the RFI late in the project, the architect is slow to return the RFI, the architect refuses to acknowledge problems with its own work, and/or the contractor misuses the RFI process. All of these issues can cause delays in the project and may even result in rework and redesign.
Both of these issues result from poor communication and collaboration. Contractor, design professional, and owner alike must all clearly communicate the project goals and develop a common understanding early in the project. Ideally, the owner will engage a construction manager to facilitate communication before, during, and after the project. Only through clear communication and collaboration can these common bases for disputes be avoided.
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