JCT Interviews…John Turner

In this series we shed some light on some of the key people who are involved with or give their time to support JCT, to ensure that all areas of the construction industry are represented and can contribute to the development of our contracts. We will look at how our interviewees contribute to JCT specifically, and gain their views on JCT’s wider role within the industry.

John Turner
JCT Council Member
Member of the JCT Drafting Sub-Committee

John Turner is a Project Manager at Derwent London; a property investment and development company with a portfolio of over 6m sq. ft. of commercial offices and mixed use buildings primarily in London’s West End and City fringe.

After graduating from South Bank Polytechnic, John joined the London Borough of Harrow before moving to building surveyors, John Pelling and Partners, after gaining RICS chartered status in 1987.

John joined Beard Dove in 1992, who were subsequently acquired by Capita, where he became Director of Building Surveying in their London office, managing a team of surveyors and project managers involved in refurbishment and development projects for a variety of diverse private and public sector clients including property developers and investors, The British Museum and Government departments such as HMRC and the Prison Service.

In 2002 John moved to a client-side role as Head of Building at property investment company, London Merchant Securities (LMS), managing a wide variety of projects ranging from commercial office refurbishments and developments in London, to construction of an out-of-town retail park near Glasgow and major repair works to the Thames river wall at Greenwich Reach.

In 2007, LMS merged with Derwent Valley to form Derwent London where John manages a variety of schemes across the portfolio, utilising the services of teams of consultant architects, engineers, surveyors and other specialists to deliver buildings with the quality of design upon which Derwent London’s name has been forged. John’s role at Derwent London also involves advising upon JCT contracts and consultant appointments.


JCT: John, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?

JT: I was first introduced to the client’s college as a representative of The British Property Federation (BPF) by Marc Hanson (now of Berwin Leighton Paisner), who was providing construction legal consultancy advice to London Merchant Securities where I worked at the time. I recall my first JCT drafting sub-committee meeting where, following some fairly robust and extended debate, I did wonder what I may have let myself in for!

I do believe it is important to be involved in order to represent the interests of the BPF through the drafting of contracts and the wider commercial issues concerning the JCT Council, such as the priority to be afforded to production of certain revised or new contract editions above others. I am also conscious that, like myself, all of my fellow college members are busy and so it is important to maintain our numbers to help ensure that we can collectively provide the necessary time to attend the various JCT committees, working groups and Council. My involvement also helps me to keep abreast of current contract issues to the benefit of my role at Derwent London.

JCT: You are a member of JCT’s Drafting Sub-Committee, can you tell us about your role in the group and what the priorities have been in preparing for the new 2016 edition?

JT: My role is to represent the BPF as a member of the client college. I see my main contribution as using my knowledge and experience of hands-on management of construction projects to provide practical advice as to how our contracts are interpreted and put to use during the procurement, design and construction phases.

The main priorities from my point of view have been in further improving the clarity of payment terms whilst reconciling these with the requirements of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act. Additionally, extension of the insurance provisions relating to existing structures during tenant works are particularly pertinent to my day job.

JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights? What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?

JT: Part of what attracted me to the industry in the first place was to be able to see the result of my efforts being realised in physical form in the shape of buildings being constructed or regenerated and that feeling has stayed with me ever since. I have been fortunate enough to have worked on a number of schemes that I could cite as stand out moments in my career which leads me to think that the real highlight has been the variety and breadth of project that I have been involved in.

These include some great Derwent London buildings such as our recently completed conversion of former recording studios and retail premises to create stunning new office space and a new retail parade on Tottenham Court Road, the refurbishment of the Buckley Building (originally a paper works and printing factory), the development of our Qube office building in Fitzrovia and a prototype mock-up of our White Collar Factory currently under construction.

Aside from these more conventional projects, my project management experience has extended to the installation of large artefacts in the completed Great Court refurbishment at The British Museum, including a 1.5 ton carving of a stone head from Easter Island; major structural works to renew a length of the Thames river wall at Greenwich Reach; refurbishment of the listed Welsh Office building in Whitehall (I still have a lump of the original defective stone cornice from that building sitting in my garden which I have been contemplating what to do with for many years now!), works to various prisons and, latterly, repairs to an outflow tunnel from a Scottish loch originally constructed in the 17th century purportedly by Spanish prisoners of war.

Certain of these projects obliged the use of contracts other than the JCT forms, which helped form my opinion that I should always be working with the latter given the choice.

I also look back on my success in growing the surveying department under my management at Capita as a particular career highlight, particularly as this spanned two industry recessions.

As for what I consider the construction industry should be most proud of, I’d say the ingenuity and innovative thought it exhibits and ability to solve the myriad of problems that must be overcome in order to get buildings built, particularly in dense urban locations such as London. This extends across the piece from funding arrangements, through planning, design, procurement and construction itself. And how about a pat on the back for the JCT also, who can be justly proud of the suite of documents they have produced and the contribution they have made to the industry for so many years.

JCT: What do you think makes JCT unique? What are the benefits of the way in which JCT contracts are produced?

JT: Without doubt the uniqueness of the college structure of the JCT enables true representation across the construction industry. Obviously, the interests of the various groups can be quite disparate on certain matters, but through combined debate, compromise, many years of legal precedent and the development over time of wide standardisation across the JCT document suite, all parties entering into a JCT contract can benefit from and be confident that their interests are properly and fairly represented.

The extent of the industry wide knowledge of the various JCT contract forms is another example of what makes JCT as well as being a benefit in that the processes and procedures to be followed have become almost second nature to clients, consultants and contractors alike, thus avoiding the need for constant referral to the contract documents and possible dispute which, ultimately, can only assist in reducing disruption to the progress of works on site.

JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?

JT: There never seems to have been a time when the construction industry has not been faced with a multitude of perceived or real challenges and this appears to be no different at present, be it labour shortages, skill gaps, material availability, inflation and, at the time of this interview, the possibility of Brexit and the effect that may have.

Aside from these perhaps more obvious challenges, making full use of technological advances must be considered a key target for the industry over the next five years such as increased use of offsite prefabrication to improve lead times and quality control, bring cost efficiencies and certainty of programme delivery, which must be improved.

The increased use of Building Information Modelling will continue and BIM software systems further developed to their full potential to provide full integration with post completion building maintenance and facilities management processes. An offshoot challenge to the industry will be to see whether BIM can contribute toward closer collaboration within the project team leading to a more collective acceptance of design liability between designers and contractors and a reduction in contractual disputes.

One thing is certain, when one considers that the Olympic park was nearing completion five years ago(are the next Olympics really already upon us?), the next five years will seem to pass in an instant.

JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?

JT: I believe it is important that JCT does continue to explore how it may expand its industry role beyond producing contracts because this will bring commercial benefits in raising its profile and maintaining and enhancing its market position. This should obviously not be to the detriment of the core business of producing contracts since resources are finite.

Sharing knowledge and opinion through the website, contributions to trade press and other publications and the production of guides to procurement and tendering are examples of how this may be done along with continued contributions to Government white paper consultations and-the-like.

Education is another field in which the JCT can play a wider role in introducing those entering the industry to JCT contracts and the important contribution they make in the construction process. The student competition is an excellent initiative in forging this early relationship.