The use of a Dispute Board (also referred to as a Dispute Resolution Board) is a highly successful and cost effective contractual process for the avoidance and resolution of disputes during the course of the project. The two most popular types are:
The Dispute Review Board (DRB) ... provides non-binding recommendations; or
The Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) ... gives a decision that is interim binding.
Typically the DRB or DAB is established at the outset and comprises three individuals who are experienced, impartial and respected construction professionals from different disciplines. The Board members are selected and approved by both the contractor and owner/client who share the costs equally. For smaller projects, the Board may comprise just a single member.
The Dispute Board members are kept informed of construction progress and developments, and visit the site periodically (typically every 3 months). During these visits the panel can observe any problems or potential problems ‘first hand’, and discuss matters of concern with the contractor and owner/client representatives. Early appointment and regular site visits develops a greater understanding of the project, the parties and the background to any dispute. If required, the Dispute Board can informally assist the parties in trying to resolve any disagreements before they escalate into adversarial disputes. In the event either party does formally refer a dispute to it, the Dispute Board generally convenes a hearing to consider the issues and then provides a timely written recommendation or decision. The report includes the reasoning that led to its conclusions.
As an alternative to the full-term DB, which is appointed at the start of the contract, the Dispute Board may be formed on an adhoc basis after a dispute has arisen. This type of Dispute Board is appointed purely for a particular dispute, and is typically disbanded when their decision has been issued. Although the adhoc DB has cost savings, it is widely considered that the benefits of the full-term DB, particularly its dispute avoidance work during regular visits to the site, more than justifies the additional expense.
The use of the Dispute Review Board and Dispute Adjudication Board continues to grow in worldwide popularity as the World Bank, multilateral Development Banks, FIDIC and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) all now advocate use of the Dispute Board process. In the UK, a dispute avoidance panel was used on projects for the 2012 Olympics, and Dispute Boards have previously been used on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, London Docklands Light Railway and various Highways Agency projects. The latest conducted research indicates almost 98% of disputes referred to Dispute Boards conclude the matter without recourse to arbitration or litigation.
If you are looking to select a qualified Dispute Board member, Nigel Grout is an impartial and objective construction professional specialising in dispute resolution and avoidance. Nigel is included on the FIDIC President's List of Approved Dispute Adjudicators, and currently sits as a sole member DAB on a pipeline project in Eastern Europe. As a practising Quantity Surveyor for over 35 years he works exclusively on civil engineering projects; particularly highways, structures, water, rail and infrastructure. He has written numerous reports outlining findings and reasoning based on facts and contract provisions, on such matters as the interpretation of contract documents, entitlement, quantum, delay and disruption, extensions of time, interim/final accounts, payment provisions, variations and contractual claims. Particular expertise in FIDIC, ICE and NEC contract conditions. Nigel possesses detailed knowledge of international Dispute Boards practice and procedure, and is approved as an international dispute board member by FIDIC, the Dispute Board Federation (Geneva) and the Dispute Resolution Board Foundation (USA). He is also an accredited adjudicator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Nigel is available to receive worldwide appointments as a member of a Dispute Review Board or Dispute Adjudication Board.