It is interesting to see the history of the tunneling and the way the industry has evolved to address some of the challenges that are unique to underground construction. Through the years, the advent of the Differing Site Conditions clause, Geotechnical Baseline Reports and Dispute Review Boards have helped to create a more equitable contracting atmosphere that, in most cases, increases the chances of successful completion of the project.
Today, we are seeing the increased use of risk registers and the cost and scheduling models to help identify and mitigate potential problems before they happen. The UCA of SME recently published its “Guidelines for Improved Risk Management” (available free for download here) that outlines best practices in risk management, as well as the roles of the various parties involved in a tunneling project.
In the April 2017 issue of TBM: Tunnel Business Magazine, we are happy to present information from some of the leading experts in the field discussing these topics. In “Reflections on Differing Site Conditions (or, Why I Believe That Mother Nature Is a Bitch),” Dr. Gary Brierley reflects on his 45 years of experience in the industry. In the article, he describes how tunneling projects differ from “vertical” projects and discusses the ground conditions that exert the most influence on tunneling projects – groundwater, gravity and boulders.
The DSC clause has been around since 1926, making Dispute Review Boards (DRBs) a relative newcomer. The first DRB was utilized for the construction of the second bore of the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado in 1976 as a remedy for the rising number of disputes on large, complex infrastructure projects. In this issue, Bob Smith, a lawyer specializing in construction disputes, provides commentary on the past, present and future of DRBs for underground construction. It is interesting to note his concern that the increasing number of mega-projects – and the resultant increasing cost of potential claims – may minimize the impact of a DRB because the stakes are simply too high.
Finally in the April issue, we have a Q&A with Bob Goodfellow, who with Joe O’Carroll, authored the UCA Guidelines for Improved Risk Management. The Guidelines are basically the U.S. version of the British Tunnelling Society “Joint Code of Practice for Risk Management of Tunnel Works in the UK” (published in 2003) and the International Tunnelling Insurance Group’s “Code of Practice for Risk Management of Tunnel Works” (published in 2006). These documents were in the wake of several large claims that forced insurance companies to take a more proactive role in contract development.
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While these tools and guidelines have helped to slow the amount of claims related to tunneling projects, there is no perfect approach. Using a combination of best practices is an important step, but open dialogue and using the mitigation tools as intended are equally as important. If all parties are not on the same page, then the suite of dispute resolution and risk mitigation tools lose their effectiveness.
The industry has come a long way in terms of its approach to contract equitably, but many pitfalls still exist, and the ever-evolving nature of the industry – notably larger, more complex projects in challenging ground – brings new challenges with it.