In this series we shed 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.
JCT Director, British Property Federation Limited
After reading Land Economics at Cambridge, Roger worked in South Africa for 7 years before returning to the UK to join MEPC plc in 1972. In 1976 he became Development Controller and joined the main board of MEPC in 1978. Roger was responsible for development in the UK and the company’s subsidiaries in Europe and Australia developing more than 100 buildings around the world. In 1991 he moved to the London Docklands Development Corporation – the Government’s agency promoting the redevelopment of London’s redundant Docks. Roger joined as Assistant Chief Executive overseeing all the inward investment activities, property and infrastructure projects and the Corporation’s Town Planning responsibilities. He was subsequently appointed Joint Chief Executive in 1997.
Roger led a programme to sell 350 acres of land in Docklands and attracted inward investment of some £900m over 6 years to the area. Since 1998, he has worked as a consultant in commercial property development advising clients on major urban regeneration schemes as well as being a Director of two Registered Providers of affordable housing.
JCT: Roger, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?
RS: I first became involved with the JCT as an Observer for the British Property Federation alongside Jack Barkey – the Federation’s first representative on the JCT. When the BPF was invited to become a full member of the Tribunal in 1980, I became its representative on the Council. In 1988 I was elected to become JCT’s chairman and served until 1995. Although I was involved in the initial work to incorporate the JCT and form JCT Ltd, this task was completed under my successor Roy Swanston. After incorporation, I joined the Board of JCT Ltd as the BPF nominee in 2002.
This long involvement over nearly 40 years demonstrates my commitment to the JCT and all it stands for in negotiating standard forms of contract for use in the construction industry. It is important because of the service we provide to all who wish to build, be they regular commissioners of construction projects or an industrialist building the first building. In 1999 the Homeowner Contract was launched bringing the smallest clients a Standard Form of Contract drafted and approved by all participants in the industry.
JCT: You are a member of JCT’s board of directors, representing the British Property Federation. Can you tell us more about the BPF and its role within JCT?
RS: The British Property Federation is the membership organisation for the UK real estate industry. It represents all those involved in real estate ownership and investment. It works with Government and regulatory bodies to help the real estate industry grow and thrive to the benefit of our members and the economy as a whole.
Membership comes from some 400 groups involved in property investment and development including:
- Property companies
- Institutional investors and fund managers
- Commercial and industrial companies that have major property assets or other connections with the industry
- Professional firms associated with the property industry.
The Federation has three key objectives:
- to improve the legislative, fiscal and regulatory conditions that affect our industry;
- to help members access information, understand policy, and promote best practice;
- to raise the profile of the real estate industry.
The BPF’s involvement with the JCT is all about representing the interest of our members and all private clients using the services of the construction industry. The Federation is convinced of the benefits the Tribunal brings with its vital work and is committed to ensuring the continued production of a large range of contracts agreed by all involved and providing fair and reasonable terms of business to clients and constructors alike. It believes this will assist in the important task of building new and renovation projects to contribute to the Nation’s economic growth and the ever improving quality of our building stock and of the whole built environment.
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?
RS: My career highlights have been:
1. Developing a series of shopping centres in the centre of towns each of which has been important to maintaining the integrity of town centres and their economic base while reducing the impact of out of town developments.
2. Attracting major inward investment to London Dockland after the problems in the property market in the early 1990’s and especially facilitating the development of Excel – London’s new exhibition centre.
Both of these achievements have required vital input from the construction industry to ensure the developments were able to achieve their planned objectives. Ever since humans first started building mud huts, through early temples, medieval forts, Renaissance Places, Georgian homes and Victorian infrastructure to the residential, industrial and commercial edifices of the modern era, building and construction will be at the forefront of all activity. And I am sure our builders, designers and engineers will continue to rise to the challenges ahead whatever they may be.
JCT: What do you think makes JCT unique? What are the benefits of the way in which JCT contracts are produced?
RS: As I am sure has been said before, the JCT is unique in providing a national forum for all sides of the industry to come together to negotiate Standard Forms of Contract for use by participants. The reduction of the need for the involvement of lawyers by all participants is a major benefit to the industry not only because of the saving in legal fees but also because of the time saving achieved in the ever more complicated process of getting a building on to site. It is wonderful to see so many contracts being used unamended over thousands of projects. What a tribute by the users in the industry to those who give their time so generously to the drafting work involved in each edition published. It is an honour to be part of this process.
JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?
RS: The industry’s main challenge is the delivery of ever more complicated projects to the commissionaires of buildings – on cost and on time. Achieving this objective is the joint responsibility of the whole of the industry – contractors, sub contractors, suppliers and specialists, and consultants of all disciplines. Each has its own part to play in the team effort required to deliver ever more complicated construction projects.
Complexity increases for many reasons including the designing of buildings on brownfield sites, the ever higher demands of specifications to meet the sustainability agenda and the building systems that ensure these buildings operate as envisaged. When this is linked with the ever higher demand of clients and designers for more aesthetically acceptable projects delivering ever more efficient usable space, the challenge is clear to all. But at the heart of all is the principal key to a successful project – team work. Successfully managing the team will always be a key challenge for leaders of this vital industry.
JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?
RS: This is a difficult question. The JCT excels at what it does – producing standard forms of contract acceptable to all sides of the industry. And it does this because of the time freely given by representatives of our member bodies. How much more should we ask of this hard working group of volunteers? Many have argued the JCT’s remit should be enlarged but I have a real fear that the quality of our work will fall if we place ever greater demands on our limited resources – people who already give so much for the sole reward of the knowledge of a job well done.
I remain inclined to support the view that we have a big enough challenge in continuing to achieve excellence in what we already do without attempting to extend our remit into new areas which may need different skills.