JCT Interviews…Steven Carr

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.

BSc (Hons), MRICS
Director: Construction, M&G Real Estate Limited
Member of the JCT Council, BPF Representative
Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors

Steven is a member of the RICS, qualifying in 2002 as a Chartered Building Surveyor. He has spent the bulk of his career in client-side organizations, following a solid grounding in private practice as a building surveyor and project manager. He has experience of most types of construction projects, including some 15 years’ working within developer and asset management organisations, advising funds upon all aspects of construction procurement, professional services appointments, framework agreements, acquisition/disposal technical due diligence, and forward funded development projects throughout the UK and Europe.

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

SC: I was invited through the British Property Federation (BPF) to join the JCT College of Employers, Client and Local Authorities in early 2019 following the retirement of my colleague and mentor, who served as a JCT member for many years. I am very much a freshman with JCT but I have utilised the JCT contract forms throughout my working career and seeing how JCT is continually developing to accommodate evolution within the industry and being able to be part of that process is really special.

The colleges provide balance to the development of the JCT contract forms and I think it is important to have a broad representation across the different types of users. I am honoured to be asked to contribute in whatever way I can by representing the College.

JCT: Can you tell us about any specific work you’re currently doing with JCT (e.g. any work with working groups/committees/Council/Board)?

SC: I am a new member of the Council and therefore few opportunities have been available for more detailed involvement beyond the regular Council meetings. This is hopefully something that will evolve with time.

JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights?

SC: The nature of my role means that I am unable to divulge much in the way of detail of my involvement in various projects, as many are market sensitive. However, every week I think I achieve a small career highlight through the breadth of contract, asset classes and activities of which I have an overview. Everything offers an opportunity to improve your skills that little bit more. I am not sure there are any shining stars amongst my many projects over the years, but I do frequently pass developments and bore my wife about how “I was involved in that project” although she is eternally grateful much of my early career was in Manchester as we live in London.

More recently I received the freedom of the City of London, which was a personal career highlight, but I have always considered myself very fortunate to become involved in property in the first place. I was academically underwhelming at school, so my career highlight is probably at its outset when the head of faculty at Salford University took a chance on me entering as a mature student to study Building Surveying. 25 years later I still love my chosen career and will be forever grateful for the opportunity.

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

SC: I am most proud of the people in construction. We come from diverse social backgrounds, economic realities, and experience levels but we come together to create the best projects and developments, of which we can be collectively proud, and hopefully drive social change within the communities that they serve.

Technology is also advancing with modern methods of construction and off-site construction becoming commonplace. While these developments require careful consideration, the benefits they offer to cost, programme, and quality are in my view positive and, as ever, the industry is coming together to find ways of doing better.

In terms of areas for improvement, there is rather a long list. To focus on a couple, I would say that while the industry has made moves forward in encompassing diversity, it still has a way to go and we all have a part to play in addressing these concerns. Another pressing issue is the environment, which needs to be given more weight in design development rather than a tick box exercise to meet the minimum requirements. Environmental legislation and compliance is becoming ever more stringent and going way beyond basic compliance is the only way to mitigate future changes.

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

SC: The economic and social reality we find ourselves in as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is no doubt going to be an issue for the foreseeable future, but hopefully the next few years will bring greater awareness of the importance of contractual knowledge. In addition, the contraction of the insurance market and the movement towards a project alliancing model of shared responsibility offer a unique challenge for a traditionally siloed liability project structure. However, I suspect the industry’s biggest immediate challenge is how we get back to a working environment approaching a pre-Covid-19 normal and weather the current economic storm.

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

SC: Training and education is critical in equipping professionals with the skillset to understand, select, and administer the JCT contract suite effectively. I am fortunate that I spend a great deal of my time poring over JCT contracts due to the volume of activity I overview, but for some professionals who only occasionally interact with a JCT contract it can be a confusing and daunting prospect. JCT recognised this and in 2019 launched the JCT Training programme with sessions delivered by past and current members of the JCT Council, and members of the JCT Drafting Sub-Committee. I cannot recommend this highly enough for those wishing to gain more confidence in this area.