It is now a year since the Association of Consultant Architects' Standard Form of Contract for Project Partnering (known in shorthand as "PPC 2000") was launched by Sir John Egan, chairman of the Government's Construction Task Force. It is a multi-party contract which seeks to govern the entire procurement process and, in doing so, to implement the recommendations of Sir John's 1998 report on "Rethinking Construction" (and Sir Michael Latham's 1994 report, "Constructing the Team").
In the words of its accompanying guidance notes, it aims to be "a single, fully integrated Project Partnering Contract, designed to underpin a team-based approach and to promote clarity and confidence among Partnering Team members".
In the year since its publication, PPC 2000 has laid claim to significant success in terms of the value of projects upon which it has been used. It has also attracted considerable comment in industry and legal journals - ranging from cautious encouragement to forthright accusations of muddled thinking or "crass" drafting. Most views have leaned to the former position, manifesting an understandable reluctance on the part of construction lawyers to be perceived as in any way opposed to innovation and to the move away from the adversarial attitudes which have bedevilled the industry for so many years. Few would claim, however, that the contract is without difficulties. Now that the dust has settled on its initial appearance, and the industry has had some opportunity to familiarise itself with PPC 2000's approach, it may be helpful to outline some of the issues which should be considered by any client, contractor or consultant who is seriously considering the use of this new form.
The most radical innovation in PPC 2000 is its multi-party nature, designed to house all of the principal participants in each stage of the procurement process under one contractual roof. Some commentators have seen this as a failing in itself, and likely to give rise to unnecessary complexity and confusion in identifying and policing the parties' mutual rights and obligations. It is difficult to see, however, why the more usual multiplicity of contractual documents in any project of significant size or value can be considered somehow easier to create, interpret and administer.
Consultants may be nervous about the extension of the category of those to whom they owe a contractual duty (so as to include the entire Partnering Team), but their duty still...