“Exceptionally adverse weather conditions”. Four words which for many conjure up images of torrential rain, deep snow and blisteringly cold conditions. For others however, the dangerous effect of heatwaves are hard to miss.
With temperatures predicted to reach highs of up to 43 degrees, it is perhaps unsurprising that both Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke have warned that they may need to close sites to ensure the health and safety of their workers. While both contractors have indicated they will take a pragmatic approach to ensuring any works are completed – the risk remains that, as temperatures rise, so too does the likelihood of delay and the inevitable claims for an extension of time that follow.
Where a delay to a construction project is attributable to adverse weather, it remains vitally important the parties check the terms of their contract. While many standard form building contracts envision such an event occurring, it is not uncommon for these to be removed through amendments to the contract or simply not included in a bespoke contract.
Similarly, even where a contract does allow for an extension of time due to adverse weather, this is no guarantee that a specific weather event unfolding will entitle the contractor to additional time. The NEC suite of contracts is a classic example of this, as it requests weather measurements in support of a claim but limits these measurements to rainfall, snow and temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius. The contract otherwise fails to address a potential claim where works are adversely affected by an alternative weather event – notably such as in a heatwave. This unfortunate oversight means that, under a NEC contract, where a contractor stops works due to the intense heat, they will not be entitled to additional time to complete the works. Whether this will be addressed in future iterations of the NEC remains to be seen.
In all cases, it is vital that parties ensure they keep a comprehensive record of the weather on site and that, if an application is made, that the notice provisions are complied with both as to time and substance.
So with the temperature (hopefully) cooling in the days and weeks to come, why not take out your contract and familiarise yourself with its adverse weather terms? After all, come sunshine or snow, it is always good to be aware of these provisions so as to best “weather" any potential disruption to a project to come.