In the JCT Interviews… series we shine the spotlight on some of the key people who are involved with or give their time to support JCT, showing the diverse range of disciplines across the construction industry that our members represent and the collaborative work that contributes to the development of our contracts. We look at how our interviewees contribute to JCT specifically and gain their views on the wider industry and JCT’s role within it.
member, JCT Council
member, JCT Drafting Sub-Committee
senior commercial manager, Balfour Beatty
Steve is a member of the CICES and has over 32 years’ experience as a quantity surveyor. His experience spans main contracting and specialist subcontracting, in both civil engineering and construction. Steve has worked for Balfour Beatty since 2005, initially with the specialist ground engineering business, and is now part of the highway business’ strategic commercial team.
JCT: Steve, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?
SW: I had been a member of the Commercial Committee of the Federation of Piling Specialists for a number of years prior to my JCT involvement. The FPS itself was a member of the National Specialist Contractors Council, and in 2004 the NSCC (now Build UK) was seeking a volunteer to represent the Specialists/Sub-Contractors on the working party for the JCT Constructing Excellence contract. I volunteered, and soon after was also invited to join the Contract Committee of the NSCC, and become one of their JCT representatives, which I gladly accepted. All my contract related education at university was based on JCT, and a large percentage of contracts that I’d negotiated and used in the industry were JCT. I viewed the JCT as fair contracts worthy to hold their place as an industry standard for so long, so I saw it as a privilege to be able to contribute to the industry in this way.
I still believe JCT has a vital role to play in producing fair contracts that reflect good practice and legal requirements, that clients and contractors can use off-the shelf, or with amendments to reflect any negotiated revisions. On a personal level I’ve benefitted from the experience of being involved in discussions with the broad range of professionals that represent clients, consultants, contractors, and subcontractors, as well as JCT chairs.
JCT: Can you tell us about any specific work you are currently doing with JCT (e.g. any work with working groups/committees/Council/Board)?
SW: The Drafting Sub-committee is currently working on the next edition of the suite of contracts to take into account legal updates, change in industry practice, and new ways of working. The Sub-committee is a good mix of legal professionals and construction practitioners, so there’s a blend of knowledge leading to robust contracts, with clear drafting.
JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights?
SW: I have been involved in some landmark projects including the Shard and Battersea Power Station. I have also successfully completed a number of difficult contract negotiations, some with very novel incentivisation mechanisms. The most intense contract negotiation took 8 months and involved combining 4 sets of conditions into a single document which was acceptable to the client, their professional team, construction manager, trade contractor, and the various legal advisors – it certainly felt like an achievement when that was finalised. I’m also very enthusiastic regarding my current involvement in creating more collaborative and open contract relationships between Balfour Beatty and subcontractors through the implementation of alliancing contracts based upon Project 13 principles, including training, and supporting cultural change.
JCT: What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?
SW: The evidence of the construction industry is all around us, it is where we live, work, shop, and everything in between. Buildings and infrastructure are critical to daily life and our enjoyment of being in pleasant surroundings. New buildings and infrastructure can and do improve the quality of life.
I think the area prime for improvement, which many businesses are heavily focusing on, is sustainability. This can mean many things, ranging from the environment to social values and education and training. However, with COP26 and the climate agenda, the environmental component has become critically important. This can include designers considering embedded carbon in structures and selecting eco-friendly materials, designing more energy efficient buildings, contractors adopting more eco-friendly construction methods including offsite manufacture, and more efficient construction plant and working practices.
JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?
SW: I do not expect the skills and materials shortages, high price inflation, and COVID-19 and its economic impact to end in the near future. On a positive note, many businesses have learned that agile and virtual working necessitated by the pandemic is sustainable and can be beneficial. Combined with the environmental considerations, the growing importance of data and modelling, and some moves towards focusing on projects’ end goals (allowing more creativity in solutions), I think innovation will be more important than ever.
JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?
SW: Yes, and it already does. It has provided training, input to government consultations, and thought provoking articles and lectures to name four. The core of JCT is nevertheless producing contracts to meet the industry’s need, and broader work is undertaken by the major industry bodies that are represented at JCT such as Build UK.