Construction & engineering

Our specialist team of construction solicitors, comprising construction lawyers, adjudicators, arbitrators and mediators, have extensive experience advising on contentious and non-contentious construction matters, from construction contracts and procurement to various methods of dispute resolution whether through litigation or alternative dispute resolution.  We act for developers, contractors and sub-contractors at every stage of the construction process.  

In a changing market, our construction and engineering team can provide you with a reassuring presence. Whether you want light touch advice or strong action, we have the knowledge and experience to help you in the most effective way. We want to build a long standing trusted advisor role with you, in a similar way to having your own in-house counsel, and we will invest our own resources to do so. That approach has worked well for our existing clients, who appreciate our knowledge of their business and our experience in applying the law to the industry. We are there when needed, whether you need a contract written or a problem solved.

Our construction lawyers advise on:

  • drafting and negotiating of building contracts such as the JCT, NEC, ICE and GC/Works forms
  • all stages of competitive tendering under UK and EU public procurement legislation including tender documentation and bid evaluation
  • appointments of designers, consultants and project managers and amendments to professional bodies' standard terms
  • performance bonds, guarantees and collateral warranties
  • development agreements for regeneration schemes
  • construction disputes
  • claims for defective design or poor workmanship
  • termination of the contract
  • challenges to procurement procedures
  • extensions of time and loss and expense claims
  • final account disputes
  • payment of retention, payment notices and withholding notices
  • enforcement of adjudicators' decisions
  • consultants' claims for professional fees 

Our expertise

Building contracts

We advise building contractors on all forms of building contracts – JCT, NEC3, ICC, PPC etc - and ancillary documents including performance bonds, guarantees, escrow security deeds and warranties / third party rights notices. Whether it’s partnering, full risk transfer, design control or commissioning a series of works under a framework, we know what to do. 

Managing contract risk

If you are involved in public sector tendering, our experience in waste, leisure, defence, schools and hospitals will help you to bid for projects. Whether it is a single review for a restricted procedure bid, or an ongoing competitive dialogue, we can help you manage contract risk in a way that helps win the job.    

We advise subcontractors in the supply chain on contractual risk, often created by a chain of contracts being passed down by reference to each other, with a series of additional terms appended that can repeat or conflict. We can write those contracts, review them or challenge them.

Adjudication and arbitration

We are experts in adjudication and arbitration, with team members being qualified adjudicators and arbitrators, so we are regularly challenging or defending: interim and final accounts, extensions of time and loss and expense claims, retentions, termination scenarios, and defects claims, and then frequently enforcing those decisions.

You may have heard that courts demand that the parties make efforts to settle. We regularly run mediations, with some team members being accredited mediators. Knowing when to settle and when to move on is part of our remit.

Party wall knowledge

We have specialist party wall knowledge, being members of the industry steering group.

Ultimately if you need to go to court, which is rare but sometimes important to protect your business, we will know when to start that process and how to handle it to facilitate a successful conclusion. 

Sector focus

Although the construction and engineering industry is our specialist sector, we also work alongside colleagues in specialist focus groups to maximise the benefit to clients in those sectors – these include process plant and production lines, heritage, agricultural diversification / energy, social housing, commercial property development and healthcare. All of those expend capital on fixed assets but they have nuances that require our understanding and empathy.

Engineering contracts

Contract for systems and plant require detailed on the job testing pre and post completion, with KPIs and damages linked to the results of that testing. We advise on engineering contracts and any associated disputes – particularly civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, chemical, highways and infrastructure engineering – under NEC3, MF/1, ICC contracts etc. Statutory adjudication does not just apply to buildings – we can obtain quick decisions for seemingly intractable disputes.

Industry experience

We work closely with professionals in the industry so that we know the latest news and can recommend technical advisors. In fact we offer a fixed price service for advising surveyors, architects and engineers on proposed professional appointment agreements, whether you have received a bespoke agreement from another lawyer or the standard RIBA / RICS / ACE / NEC3 PSC documents have been amended. That advice exceeds standard “free” insurance bolt-ons offered to professionals, thereby giving you the tools to protect your business from a commercial, legal and insurance perspective.

Extracting value

Do you own or operate built assets ? Do you want to use them as security or extract value from your business by selling them ? We find that deals can be prejudiced and anticipated profits reduced if construction contracts and associated security is not set up in the most suitable way to preserve value. We provide due diligence assistance to funders and purchasers to look at the construction security available.

Our experience

Advanced Manufacturing sector

  • Fahstone: WH has advised a specialist joinery company regarding a large CNC machine and production line for the bespoke manufacturer of high quality windows and doors.  This has involved working closely with mechanical engineering consultants and specialists regarding bespoke specialist hardware and computer software.
  • Major Global Motor Manufacturer: WH has advised a major car manufacturer on the contracts via new body treatment production line including advise on the use of the NEC 3 contract as a professional services contract and drafting the contract terms and providing amendments specific to the projects.  We have also advised on the flag ships shown for the same manufacturer.
  • Butcher's Pet Care: WH has advised a major food producer on problems experienced with a microbiological effluence treatment plant.  The plant catastrophically failed and was rebuilt but again failed performance tests.  WH then took action against the contractor who built the plant and the developer of the site and its guarantor.  We also proceeded under a warranty claim which resulted in substantial commercial settlement by mediation.  In addition we gave advice relating the procurements of new plants, recommending use of the IChemE Red Book.  WH were required to understand and present a variety of technical arguments concerning the mechanism of the part that it is testing and the related chemistry and microbiology involved.
  • Brinklow Biogas: WH is advising the land owners on the contracts to procure the design, construction, installation, commissioning, testing and maintenance of an anaerobic digestion plant which will then split the gas partly for resale onto the grid and partly for use to generate heat and power for the farm and quarry operations owned by the same employer.  This contract was written under an ICheme Red Book which required detailed analysis of such issues as liability periods, testing regimes, programming issues, off-site materials payment risk and ongoing contract management within a tight time-scale required to avoid falling wholesale gas prices.
  • Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham PFI: Lawyers at WH have advised the building contractors on the civil engineering and groundworks contracts and the superstructure and automation contracts for the multi-million pounds waste to energy plant provided by Shanks/Scottish and Southern for the benefit of Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham councils.  This contract package was based on NEC3 which was heavily amended to suit a bespoke PFI sub-contract mechanism with two different contracts dealing with the groundworks and civil engineering followed by the superstructure and commissioning presses, needing detailed interaction between the contractors to avoid inappropriate risk share arrangements.  This was a PFI based structure so the top contracts were bespoke project agreements but by the time they came down to the building sub-contractor they were based on NEC3 with PFI concepts inserted as amendments leading to a complicated contract which had to meet bank funding for PFI expectations while also complying with the law on construction contracts.

Reported construction law cases

  • Crown Aluminium Ltd v Northern & Western Insurance Company Ltd and another [2011] EWHC 277 (TCC)

Knowledge & insight

Legal Articles