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JCT updates design and build standard form construction contract

Changes to the Joint Construction Tribunal (JCT) standard form “design and build” contract through the publication of the new 2024 contract form will require employers and contractors within the construction industry to review their styles and precedents, an expert has said.

Michael Allan, construction law expert at Pinsent Masons, said “whilst the update is much trailed and long-awaited, it is not on first impression any radical re-write."

The recently published update is intended to replace JCT’s previous 2016 design and build contract form.

JCT is the longest running and largest construction contract producing body in the UK, with design and build contracts used in situations where contractors carry out both the design and construction work on a project.

The form and layout of the 2024 form remain the same as that of the 2016 contract. However, in one important change, the language of the contract has been made gender neutral, removing “he” and “him” references to contractors and employers within the contracts.

Read more on the new JCT 2024 design & build contract

Important amendments made to the contract include the introduction of provisions to deal with the 2022 Building Safety Act regime, identifying the principal designer and principal contractor for the purposes of the 2010 Building Regulations and requiring the contractor’s compliance with the Regulations. This includes identifying those who must manage building safety, drawing clear lines of responsibility during design and construction.

New provisions allowing for extensions of time have also been included in the contract to cover epidemics and change of law. Notably these are only included as options, to be selected or not, in respect of contractors being able to recover loss and expense costs under the contract if the project faces delay due to such matters.

The previous antiquities clause has also been expanded in the contract update to include for the discovery of asbestos, contaminated material and unexploded ordnance. Compliance with the clause allows for an extension to the completion date as well as additional costs.

The update also includes a clause to limit the contractor’s duty in respect of design obligations to one of “reasonable skill and care”, excluding the more onerous ‘fitness for purpose’ standard, to the extent allowed under statute. In respect of design liability there is also now clearer detailing of the specifics of the contractor’s professional indemnity insurance, which provides protection against liability as well as covering legal or compensation costs if a client alleges negligence or error in relation to carrying out the design and construction contract.

There is also now clarification on the position concerning the payment of liquidated damages for delay where the contractor’s employment is terminated following case law on this matter, as well as an introduction of a much more prescriptive regime on payment procedures in the event of termination of the contractor’s employment under the contract.

More detail on these considerations and the ways in which they may impact contractors will follow, but for now “precedent amendments will need to be considered on the specific points of the updates, but should not need radical revision”, Allan said. 

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