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20/12/2023 – 2023: A Year in Review

With lockdown and COVID visible in our rearview mirror, 2023 was a year of contradictions with both increased spending and cost control, personally and professionally.

We started the year off with our popular Webinar, The Claims Experience, by our experienced Claim Managers from Focus Underwriting, Adele Monaco and Hayley Davani, who discussed their recent claims experiences, trends and examples that they have encountered. We followed this up with our article on the importance of record keeping and documents in the litigation process, So you have been sued! Who cares about records?.

But as the construction and insurance market recovers from lockdown, construction professionals are starting to deal with new challenges. 2022 and 2023 saw a number of well-known builders head into administration with a number of design consultants concerned. In response we put on our Webinar, Insolvent Builders, where Special Counsels Samuel Woff and Patrick Joyce of Lander & Rogers gave their expertise to assist in identifying ways that builder insolvency impacts on consultants as well as some general principals of insolvency and considerations when dealing with insolvency risk on projects.

The start of the year also bought with it another challenge for the construction industry, with the Federal Labor Government calling for Safe Work Australia to advise on the mechanics of a ban on the use of engineered stone with state workplace safety ministers meeting to discuss the action plan moving forward. Our article Is it the End of the Line for Engineered Stone? was written to try and address some of the risks and concerns of the use and ban of this product on services and insurance. We now know, most states and territories in Australian will ban the use, supply and manufacture of engineered stone on and from 1 July 2024.

With the increase construction costs as well as cost of living, 2023 was hardly considered to be a “normal market” for individuals, practices or the construction industry as a whole. Even in the best of times, it’s no easy task to design a compliant, quality project that meets the client’s evolving needs within a budget that may be (at best) limited and (at worst) unclear, unknown or variable, let alone in the market that 2023 gave us. Seeing this challenge, we had architect Clare Cousins and our own Risk Manager, Wendy Poulton present our Webinar, Working with the Budget, in order to assist in understanding and fulfilling a consultant’s obligation to meet the client’s budget, looking at those obligations in the scope and contracts as well as selecting and applying appropriate strategies to assist with cost management.

Noticing a change in trend for more collaborative working models by clients, usually larger or government clients, we decided to present an intensive, three-hour Webinar, Strong Foundations for Collaboration. This webinar drew on the experience of consultant, Kiri Parr, Gavin Crump of BIM Consulting and our own Felicity Dixon, in identifying the pros and cons of common procurement models in collaboration and the considerations when working jointly in each model as well as identifying and applying good practice in using BIM to maximise cooperation. We also wrote an article Collaborative working: Nice in Theory, but realistic in the construction industry realty? to complement this.

As 2023 brought with it several new challenges, the importance of contractual terms when being engaged in this 2023 market. Seeing this need we presented a Webinar, Contracts Toolkit 2023, drawing on the legal knowledge of Principal, Wendy Poulton and Senior Legal Counsel, Felicity Dixon on behalf of informed Lawyers Pty Ltd (ACN 635 862 145) discussing basic principles for putting together your own consultancy agreement, identifying architects codes of conduct requirements and understanding and complying with unfair contracts legislation as it applies to consultancy agreements.

We then complemented this with a number of articles. We wrote our articles on Attention Architects! Is your Client Architects Agreement Compliant? and What to do before you craft your design looking at making sure consultant agreements are compliant and what to consider when engaging clients on your own terms. We also wrote K.I.S.S the Clever Consultant discussing limitation of liability clauses and matters to consider in your own consultancy agreements.

The ripple effect of COVID was felt in the 2023 market with new challenges including the increase in government procurement, as well as recent ACCC enforcement action, which has put tendering in the spotlight in 2023. Partner, Adam Walker of Gadens and Bid Manager, Katia Zanutta, presented our Webinar, Spotlight on Tenders giving a snapshot of some of the key competition law requirements that apply to tenderers, including cartel conduct as well as ideas for writing tenders and procedures to bring the tender team together.

As we saw the upheaval of COVID settle in 2023, it also became clear that the office environment and how we work has changed dramatically bringing with it another challenge. Practices started looking at ways of getting staff back into the office after we all got used to working from the comfort of home. In response, we provided a specific webinar on Re-thinking Office Design drawing from the skill and insights of Ingrid Bakker, Commercial and Workplace Sector Leader at Hassell and our own Risk Manager, Wendy Poulton to understand and apply knowledge of developments in office design, identify and avoid some common risk areas on office projects and applying safe design law to design of office buildings.

We also wrote an article on a recent case of Khan v Filardo Ercan Architects Pty Ltd [2023] ACAT 35,  Keeping it Sweet highlighting the importance of maintaining good relations between the architect and client on domestic projects, including maintaining clear communication between each party on how the architect prepares the design and what exactly the client wants and when.

As the year came to an end, our article Amended Unfair Contract Legislation – What’s in it for you?  was published to address the new and relevant provisions to unfair contracts legislation that commenced operation from 9 November 2023 applying to contracts for the supply of goods or services, most likely including consultancy agreements.

We finished up our educational 2023 webinar series with our two-hour intensive on informed Beginnings presented by Risk Managers Lisa Wastell-Anthony, Felicity Dixon and Nina Stone aimed at understanding the basic principles relating to the performance of your professional services as well as prevalent issues in the current construction environment, contracts and clauses to look out for as well as common causes of claims relating to professional indemnity insurance.

In 2024, we’re continuing to provide our specialised services by offering a program of nine webinars – including 8 one-hour topics, as well as our hugely popular two-hour fundamentals overview webinar at the end of the year.

We thank you for your support and understanding as we have built up our team in 2023 and look forward to another year of relevant, topical and educational webinars beginning in February with Words from the Wise: Claims Trends.

Felicity Dixon
Risk Manager, NSW/ACT

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