JCT Interviews…Steven Thompson

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.

Member of the JCT Drafting Sub-Committee

Steven is a fellow of the RICS, qualifying in 1984 as a chartered quantity surveyor and he has spent the bulk of his career in private practice as a quantity surveyor and project manager. He has experience of most types of construction projects with some 15 years’ experience of working with global pharmaceutical companies advising on all aspects of research and manufacturing projects. In more recent years and prior to joining the RICS, he has worked client-side with a property developer and outsourcing company, including PFI school developments.

Steven joined the RICS in September 2016 and is one of the associate directors within the RICS Professional Groups Built Environment department. He is responsible for the Quantity Surveying and Project Management Professional Group Boards, and is involved with the related Infrastructure Groups. In addition, he looks after the related Forums and is a member of the ‘Black Book’ Working Group. He also is a member of the JCT Drafting Sub- Committee and has been closely involved in the drafting of the recently published JCT 2016 Edition of contracts.

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

ST: I was invited to join the Drafting Sub-Committee a few years ago as one of the RICS representatives to the Consultant’s College. I feel that it is important that JCT receives as wide a view as possible on the key issues that need to be considered in effective and fair contract formation. Having worked in private practice, for a developer client and an outsourcing contractor over the course of my career, I believe that I can bring a balanced view across the industry and profession.

JCT: Can you tell us about any specific work you’re currently doing with JCT – through your role on the JCT Council, or through any working groups, for example?

ST: As a member of the Drafting Sub-Committee, my key task over recent years has been the production of the JCT 2016 Edition of contracts and associated sub-contracts, warranties and other documents. This seemed to commence immediately after the publication of the previous 2011 suite and therefore has been an all-consuming task!

We are also at the start of looking at other new forms of contract, such as Target Cost and a Facilities Management form (amongst others), but these are currently only at the preliminary stages.

And, there will always be the initial preparations for the drafting of the next suite revision with a growing ‘checklist’ of those matters that were deferred in 2016 and will need to be re-visited next time around!

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?

ST: I think the best way to think of career ‘highlights’ is to remember with pride the really interesting projects that I have worked on over the years and two stand out in that respect. Firstly, as a young QS very early in my car eer, I had the privilege to work on part of the restoration of one of Hawksmoor’s City churches. In those days it was still an empty shell and I only worked on it for three years or so within a programme of 30 years work to restore it to its former glory. It is thrilling to go back now and see the church open again and thriving as the centre of a worshipping community.

Secondly, I was proud to be the client developer representative on the construction of a new-build £30m independent school, as a relocation from the previous cramped city centre site. With bank development funding having been denied to the school, we stepped in as developer, funder, and landlord. We completed a ‘deal’ within six weeks, were on site immediately thereafter using an unamended JCT Design and Build form of contract, therefore having to make all payments to the contractor within 14 days!

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

ST: The aftershock from the collapse of Carillion has brought into sharper focus the need for the industry to seek to ‘fix’ the broken procurement models and practices that have evolved over recent years. A widespread and comprehensive review is therefore somewhat overdue. The failure of all levels of the supply chain to pr ovide prompt payment and the continuing use of r etention remain related matters which will challenge the industry in the next few years – a workable solution must be found.

Finally, the recent death of Lord Michael Latham provides a timely reminder that the industry may perhaps have not (yet) heeded his recommendations for greater collaboration for the benefit of all – and indeed, much closer to today, we should not forget the warning from Mark Farmer to the industry to moder nise or die. Challenging times, indeed.

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

ST: Collaboration across the industry and in its relationship with Government is key, and JCT has been facilitating that for many decades with its contracts and other publications seeking to provide a balanced consensus between the various stakeholders.

This role is actually far wider than merely the drafting of the wording of the contracts but also includes education and training of those embarking upon their careers, resulting in a change of mindset for the future.