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Diggers at dawn

Construction is a great industry for creating disputes, says David Richbell

2 June 2006

The construction industry is a great industry for creating disputes, and not just in the UK. As a quantity surveyor, first with contractors and then in private practice, I grew up with disputes, probably caused some of them, certainly fanned some of the flames and delighted in most of the battles. It was a wonderful training ground, both in the causes of disputes and in the appalling way that they were resolved. Little has changed since I gave it all up ten years or more ago, to become a full time mediator and trainer. Only last month I spent a day with 60 graduate surveyors, talking about collaborative negotiation and dispute avoidance, but few really wanted to know. Their presumption is that contractors/sub-contractors are out to screw them (or rather, their clients) – that’s how they make their profit – and so being co-operative is a sign of weakness. Anyway, they were all in their 20s; energetic, competitive, most of them self-assured. They like the fight; they like to win...

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