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Construction: looking back at 2019

The past year has flown by, with new projects underway and many developments in technology leading to changes in the way construction companies do business. However, main contractor insolvency has remained at the forefront of industry news. We take a look back at a few highlights in this article.

Construction Technology and Collaboration:

The publication earlier this year of ISO 19650 has led to the gradual superseding of the previous PAS 1192 standard. It’s anticipated that more elements of the new standard and its sub-sections will arrive in the coming months, encouraging a gradual shift towards the use of technologies to improve the construction process. The JCT also issued their BIM practice note this year to encourage the incorporation and use of BIM on projects using the ubiquitous form.

We have also seen increasing awareness and substantial interest in offsite construction. The fact that a major city investment bank has bought £75m worth of a modular housing company suggests the level of interest is significant. It’s hoped that this might lead to newer and more collaborative ways of working.

Sadly, construction output has slowed throughout 2019. We hope this won’t have a negative impact on the adoption of technology and improved collaboration. Not only can the use of collaborative technologies help to improve project delivery, but as Hannah Mycock-Overell observed earlier this year in ‘How is technology affecting construction disputes’, they have the potential to reduce the time and cost in construction disputes.

Retentions and Insolvency:

Regular readers will know retentions and contractor insolvency are subjects we have looked at often. Another major contractor entered insolvency in the past week, with others still looking somewhat unstable.

A third of respondents surveyed by Construction News said late payment was affecting their mental health. We recently held a round table on the subject which concluded that the future is still uncertain. With parliament dissolved, the ‘Aldous’ private member’s bill will make no further progress. Any new legislation will require a new bill to be submitted for consideration.

On a positive note, the Welsh Assembly are looking to address the issue. It will be interesting to see what, if any effect this has on wider awareness and changes in law.

Take a look at our in-depth article here on Late payment and retentions’ by Ruth Wilkinson, Partner Clarkslegal.

Environmental Change:

It seems David Attenborough, Extinction Rebellion, and high-profile figures such as Greta Thunberg have had an impact this year. Whatever your view, it seems climate change is now firmly on the agenda.

Talk to any architect or engineer and sustainability will appear in conversation within minutes. For the construction industry there is no doubt that the impact will be felt, from planning and design through to materials, waste and re-use. The UK has committed to ‘Net Zero’ by 2050. It seems inevitable there will be legal implications as a result. Indeed, the consultation on Part L of the Building Regulations looks set to spell the end for gas heating amongst other things.

However, main contractor insolvency has remained at the forefront of industry news.

Fire Safety:

The ongoing fall-out from building fires is likely to continue to cause concern for many in the construction and real estate sector. Indeed, the Fire Protection Association recently suggested the rules should be tightened further. They advocate application of the rules to buildings below 18 metres.

The regulations are of particular note for Architects and Surveyors’ insurance premiums. With the RIBA president calling for urgent action to bring clarity to building regulations, could we see a change in the law?


There appears to be much we can be optimistic about, and signs of great potential for change. There will undoubtedly be more legal cases which change the way we view things and more updates to come in 2020. Thank you for taking the time to read, and we look forward to keeping you updated in the year ahead.

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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