Small and medium firms are indebted to the NEC legacy of Martin Barnes

Small and medium firms are indebted to the NEC legacy of Martin Barnes
As many of you will be aware, NEC creator Dr Martin Barnes CBE sadly died in February 2022 at the age of 83. Thirty years ago he designed and drafted the original New Engineering Contract of 1993 and was involved in developing the 1995 second edition and 2005 NEC3 suite. Small- and medium-sized construction firms across the world owe him a great debt.

Many years ago I was approached by a small construction firm for advice on a matter which has since become a fairly regular occurrence. The firm was a tier 2 contractor under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Subcontract (ECS) which, mercifully, had not been amended too drastically.

However, the firm had been urged by the tier 1 contractor to dispense with early warning notices and calling for risk reduction meetings (now early warning meetings). I strongly advised the firm against this and to abide by all the NEC strictures regarding the need for proactive management of risk throughout its involvement with the project. The firm was under immense pressure to ignore these.

Fair dispute resolution

The firm heeded my advice and stuck to its guns. Needless to say, disputes arose towards the end of the job and some ended up in adjudication. But because the firm had complied with all the contractual requirements relating to notices, early warnings and so on, it achieved a favourable resolution of the disputes. The reason I recount this story is because it is a vivid example of the practical impact of Martin’s NEC legacy. Perhaps he knew this would happen, but I have been able to witness first hand the many tangible benefits that construction businesses, particularly smaller firms, have derived from use of NEC contracts.

In my view Martin’s significant contribution to the industry was not just about the fact he had come up with a new and innovative form of contract, it was more about the difference it made to the thousands of small- and medium-size contractors that were able to use the contract in the way Martin intended. His contribution was immense but probably far greater than that he would have originally imagined. May he rest in peace.

Rekha Thawrani OBE

Talking about the success of NEC, I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate Rekha Thawrani, NEC global manager, on being awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours List (see issue 117). I have known Rekha for almost 20 years and the award is thoroughly deserved.

She has worked tirelessly to promote the use of NEC throughout the world. I have always been struck by the energy she and her colleagues have devoted to organising the NEC Users’ Group conferences. The programmes have always stimulated much thought and debate.

 

 

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