Brian Barry is a Director at Blackrock Expert Services. He is an experienced project manager and delay expert with over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. He has worked extensively around the world, completing major project assignments in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

What is your role at Blackrock Expert Services?

I have a dual role at Blackrock Expert Services; I act as an independent expert witness on construction delay disputes and I also advise clients in the Project Advisory side of the business, on live projects ensuring that project delivery is on time and budget for the avoidance of disputes. Working on live projects is of great assistance to my expert witness role as it helps me to stay current with construction practices and methodologies, and my role in construction disputes lends itself to the project advisory role, as in the dispute industry we see similar issues impacting on projects so I am able to use this insight to assist clients in avoiding the pitfalls.

What drew you into a career in construction?

I have always enjoyed understanding how things were made, from when I was very young, I loved taking things apart and putting them back together again. The construction industry is like a Meccano set for adults; seeing all of the individual aspects of a building coming together from the foundations to the fit-out and how each trade works to a specific sequence is interesting. I also enjoy breaking down and understanding the planning of a project, and when I started working in the forensic side of the industry, I found that it was very intellectually stimulating. From undertaking delay analysis of projects, one sees trends emerge. Information gleaned from previous projects and lessons learned can be fed back to clients to help them avoid similar issues in their next project, which in turn led me into the advisory role.

Drawing on your experience working in Project Advisory teams and assessing projects in distress, what advice would you give to those in the construction industry who may be looking to mitigate project delays when faced with challenging circumstances?

During challenging times such as we are currently facing, construction projects are likely to face issues with delay and disruption. Whilst the magnitude of the impact on a project delivery may be uncertain, there are certain steps which can be taken to maintain control. To ensure that time and money entitlement under the contract is awarded in a fair manner to reflect developing events, there are some important steps that can be taken:

  1. review the contract to understand what constitutes an event which enables claims for time and money;
  2. understand the contractual mechanism to claim time extensions or additional money, including compliance with any requirements to notify of events; and
  3. keep detailed, accurate and continuing records of events on and offsite to be able to evidence claims.

A failure to adhere to any of these points is likely to be problematic when submitting a claim for an extension of time or additional money. However, in my experience, it is the failure to collect detailed contemporaneous records that most often causes problems. It is common for a construction contract to require the affected party to undertake reasonable steps to mitigate any delay incurred. Therefore, as well as keeping detailed records of progress achieved, maintaining accurate records of any mitigation measures implemented on the project is also fundamental if a claim for an extension of time or additional monies is to be sought. There are certain records in particular that underpin accurate and robust record keeping:

  • Daily site records including photos of the works, contractor and sub-contractor labour returns with their locations of work
  • Regular and consistent progress reporting of all activities including
    • Design
    • Procurement
    • Offsite testing and manufacturing
    • Construction works on site
    • QA/QC inspections and certification
    • Testing and commissioning
  • Progress mark-ups of an integrated design, procurement, construction and commissioning programme
  • Detailed progress meeting minutes between the Client, Contractor and Supply Chain.

From my experience as an independent expert, keeping consistent and accurate records of how the project actually progressed, along with records of any delay or disruption that may have been suffered, will help to save both time and money should a project unfortunately end up in a dispute resolution process.

Can you describe the type of projects you typically work on?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job is that I get to work on a wide variety of projects, from general building construction, semi-submersible drilling rigs, biomass plants, CHP plants and road and rail infrastructure projects. Although the projects appear to be so different, when one breaks them down into their component parts, you find they each have the same building blocks from start to finish, the major difference is in the terminology. In the beginning, I was quite confused why there would be a “Christmas tree” or a “moon pool” on a semi-submersible drilling rig! There was a tradition on high rise buildings upon completion of the steel frame, a Christmas tree was erected as part of the ‘topping out’ ceremony. However, I learnt that a Christmas tree on a drill rig was not part of a ceremony but was the valves on top of the drill pipe. I had never come across a “moon pool” before and after a little research, I found out it meant the hole in the deck for the drill.

In summary, all projects are different, and all projects are interesting to be involved in. I am privileged that in my career to date I have worked on all types of projects in various locations around the world.