Associate Director, Blackrock Expert Services
Tell us about your career and experience to date.
I studied structural engineering in Canada and my first employer provided those services for several architectural clients both in Toronto and internationally. I helped design high-rise buildings for various occupancies, using the latest software modelling techniques. In my first role as a project manager I specialised in remedial works, helping clients restore ageing properties to a safe and operational condition. I have also managed major transit projects for the Ontario government, dealing with all aspects of the project lifecycle – from contract preparation and administration to design, procurement, construction, and facilities management.
How did your engineering background help your current role as an independent expert?
I recently worked on a large hospital arbitration and my engineering experience was instrumental in rationalising the costs claimed in the defect-rectifying works. Contractors performing rehabilitation works are faced with the unique challenge of working around a finished building or structure, that is already constructed by someone else. As such, they are often faced with unknown site conditions, which can further escalate costs if not anticipated.
In my project management assignments, I’ve learned that no issue is too small – having a tight grip on every aspect is critical to the accuracy of the report as any of them could have impacted the projected schedule or cost. I have personally managed large project schedules as well as budgets and those learnings have proved invaluable in the successful delivery of independent delay and quantum expert services.
You have extensive international experience working on projects in the UK, Canada and the Middle East. What are the main similarities and differences in construction practices in these regions?
All three regions value quality. Owners and builders do not compromise on sub-par results and if a contractor fails to meet the strict specifications, they will incur additional costs and delays.
Middle Eastern clients are very particular and always demand superior quality with short timetables and at the lowest cost. In my experience, it is rarely possible for contractors to be able to deliver all three of these criteria.
Difference-wise, the efficiency of labour varies between the three regions. While Canada and the UK have very efficient workforces, you will often see more labour deployed on the same task on Middle Eastern projects, but at a lower cost. This should be taken into consideration when working on quantum claims in these regions.
What do you most enjoy about your role as an independent expert witness, and what are the key challenges for an expert witness?
Every delay or quantum analysis has its own unique problems to address, and every independent expert will approach those problems differently. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of responding to an opposing expert’s report and the task of demonstrating the advantages of my conclusions over theirs. I always strive to prepare a non-biased, independent analysis, based on the available information and necessary assumptions that will assist an adjudicator, an arbitrator or a tribunal in making the most informed decision.
What has been a career highlight for you to date?
Well, even with the best prepared reports and testimony, one is never sure what decision a tribunal or an arbitrator will arrive at. We recently received a tribunal’s award, and it was overwhelmingly in favour of the evidence put forward by our team. It was extremely satisfying to find out that our hard work paid off and resulted in a fair decision for our client.