Collaboration in action

Network Rail has successfully adopted an alliance approach to deliver some of its most significant infrastructure projects, including upgrades to the West Coast Main Line in the Stafford area (a project which is anticipated to cost £250m or less as a result of the collaborative approaches adopted, compared to the £940m previously estimated).

The Highways Agency has adopted a collaborative approach to its most recent procurement, inviting 35 parties (including a number of joint ventures) to tender for its Collaborative Delivery Framework, which will make use of various collaborative approaches to drive better value. 

The Government is also in the process of trialling a number new procurement models which adopt a more collaborative approach to delivery. These include:

  • cost led procurement – where a number of integrated supply chain teams compete to beat the cost ceiling established for the project; 
  • two stage open book – focusing on early contractor involvement followed by open book development of proposals; and 
  • integrated project insurance – arguably the most radical of the approaches to be trialled, with delivery by an integrated project team and utilising a new form of insurance that covers various liabilities, including cost overruns up to an agreed cap.

Even on projects let on more traditional forms of contract, the drive towards greater collaboration is likely to be felt at all levels as a result of the Government’s wider strategies. 

For example, the Government has committed to procuring all public projects using BIM Level 2 by 2016. As a minimum, this will require parties to work on a fully collaborative 3D BIM basis, with all project and asset information, documentation and data being electronic, which is likely to require much greater collaboration as well as the adoption of other new standards and ways of working than has been the case on projects to date. 

The CIC BIM Protocol, co-authored by Beale and Company, addresses these issues and can be used with existing forms of contract to ensure the relevant BIM requirements are built in to projects from the outset.

The effects of the Government Soft Landing initiative also have the potential to be wide reaching. The initiative aims to align the interests of those designing and building assets more closely with those who will ultimately use and manage it (the idea being that the client has a soft landing, rather than coming down to earth with a bump following handover). This approach is likely to involve greater client involvement throughout the life of a project and much longer involvement on the part of contractors and consultants post-handover to ensure a smooth transition.

What next for contracts?

This shift towards greater collaboration does not mean that the contract is no longer important. There remain a number of key questions that will need to be addressed as the various forms of collaborative working develop, many of which will need to be dealt with in the underlying contract or supporting documents.

For example, how will these increasingly collaborative approaches sit with more traditional concepts of contractual responsibility and dispute resolution? Is a dispute resolution mechanism still required where the participants have adopted a “no claim” culture? Collaboration must also be considered in light of the wider project team. Should the principles be restricted to those at the ‘top table’ who are parties to the collaborative form of contract, or can these approaches be extended further down the supply chain?

Other important considerations, particularly in the context of BIM, include ownership and management of intellectual property rights. The adoption of BIM brings many new challenges, including the prospect of loss of control for designers and more parties having input into design elements of a project. 

Ownership of intellectual property may be retained by the consultant or passed to the client as before, but much more happens to the information produced and the impact will need to be considered carefully. For example, who will be responsible for managing the BIM model and who will be liable if it fails?

Similar issues arise in the context of the GSL initiative, which requires parties to move beyond their traditional roles (and comfort zones) to achieve the soft landing required by the client. 

This gives rise to further issues, including insurance. As these collaborative forms of working develop we are already seeing new insurance products coming to the market. These include project specific PI policies and the integrated project insurance policies mentioned above, but are also likely to need to extend to deal with new cyber risks associated with these new ways of working.