CIArb News

25 years since the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act: How can adjudication continue to meet the needs of the construction sector?

16 Jul 2021

On 14 July 2021 CIArb held an event dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, which introduced statutory adjudication into UK construction.

A panel of eminent speakers (Matthew Drake FCIArb, Kim Franklin QC C.Arb FCIArb, Nicholas Gould FCIArb, Matt Molloy C.Arb FCIArb and Tom Hawkins FCIArb), moderated by Lewis Johnston MCIArb, CIArb Assistant Director of Policy and External Affairs, shared their knowledge and experience on the context of the adoption of the Act, the purpose it intended to achieve, how it was adopted and received by experts in the field.

During the first part of the event the Panel discussed the development of the Act in circumstances where adjudication was rarely viewed as a reliable and efficient dispute resolution mechanism, shared their ideas on how adjudication has evolved since the introduction of the Act and expressed their views on how it can continue to address the needs of the construction sector.

The speakers mentioned circumstances that facilitated the new approach to adjudication in the 1990s, in particular the increasing procedural, financial and logistical complexity of construction disputes and the attempts to tackle this hurdle, which were first introduced in 1994, when procurement practices were reviewed and for the first time adjudication was suggested as one of the ways to resolve such disputes. Two years later the Act was adopted. The process of introduction of statutory adjudication into the industry was thus formally launched and even though lawyers were at first unable to embrace and easily deal with adjudication, they later shaped it and promoted the internationalisation of adjudication.

The second part of the event was dedicated to possible scenarios of the evolvement of adjudication, necessary changes that might need to be introduced to make adjudication capable of meeting the needs of the construction industry. The speakers reflected on whether adjudication has achieved what it was designed to achieve in 1996 and whether it is true that this alternative dispute resolution mechanism is becoming more complex and expensive over the years. Some ideas on how to make the process less complex and expensive and avoid going back to basics were also expressed. In particular, it was mentioned that a bigger emphasis should be put on fast-track processes in low-value cases. It is important to remember, however, that even though often one of the parties’ goals is to get faster results, the actual facts and legal qualifications of a particular case will, of course, always have to be evaluated, as a balance between efficiency and integrity has to be maintained in each case.

The panellists also discussed the future of adjudication and adjudicators, how the pool of adjudicators, their qualifications, availability and other important matters should be managed. According to the latest data, there are approximately 40 referrals for adjudication a week in the UK and more people registered as adjudicators are lawyers. It was noted that since more and more young people are being trained as adjudicators by some of the most prestigious qualification bodies, it is important for the industry to change and adapt, to better meet the expectations of newly qualified adjudicators. Lots of training opportunities have been introduced and appointing bodies established, however, young professionals are still having trouble getting appointments.

An opinion was expressed that low-value adjudications need a bit more support on the access to justice front, changes needed to facilitate the process, diminish its complexity, both financial and procedural, are already there, they are known and recognized, however, once more efficient and long-standing actions have been taken, the number of adjudication referrals will increase.

The event ended with a brief Q&A session, where the panel addressed some of the audience’s questions, in particular on how the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change are affecting adjudication and how practitioners can adapt to new, but often inevitable regimes of work.

Thanks to the remarkable knowledge and background of the speakers the event was inspiring and thought-provoking. We look forward to welcoming you at our upcoming events.

Read more about adjudication here. 

Watch the event recording below

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