Earlier this week (on 20 November), Womble Bond Dickinson's Construction and Engineering Team hosted its Annual Construction Law Conference in London, attracting attendees from major businesses with an interest in construction and engineering, insurance and Brexit.

The topics discussed included hot topics in insurance for construction and engineering projects, an analysis of recent case law with a look at what the industry can expect from a legal perspective moving forward, and the current state of play with Brexit focussing on issues that particularly affect the construction and engineering industry. 

Simon Lewis, Head of the Construction and Engineering team, said,

"It was a pleasure to be chairing this event, one of the highlights in the team's calendar. Once again we had a line of up excellent speakers and a lively and interesting debate with the audience at the end of the formal presentations. We are already looking forward to building upon the success of this year's event in 2019."

Hot topics in insurance for construction   

Insurance specialist Belinda Fox considered the challenges for current insurance models in light of the unrivalled pace of change in the construction industry.

Looking at drivers for change in construction insurance, she considered the effect of technology and data, including BIM and GDPR; recent increases in transparency requirements under legislation and regulation; the impact of Grenfell and how it could give rise to new insurance risks and liabilities; and how underwriters are assessing construction risks and exposures in order to develop new insurance products.       

Belinda highlighted that "as construction processes and the functions of the built environment evolve, insurers will need to continually ask: "What is the risk impact?" and "What do risk mitigation products need to offer?"". 

Recent cases and their likely impact on construction   

Highlighting recent and anticipated decisions from the Technology and Construction Court and the Court of Appeal, Partner David Skelton (who is also an adjudicator and judge) considered how the cases discussed could affect the way construction contracts and appointments are drafted and interpreted going forward.

Giving top tips and setting out lessons learned from these cases, David explained why it was important to identify the correct parties to a contract at the outset, what force majeure clauses should cover, how concurrent delay works, and the current view of the courts on "smash and grab" adjudications. 

David believes that "the Court of Appeal judgement in the S&T (UK) Limited v Grove Developments case this year may well lead to more parties chancing their arm to prevent enforcement of adjudicators' decisions; and unless the Gosvenor v Aygun Aluminium case is overturned in the Court of Appeal later this year this may give parties further encouragement to do so."

How Brexit will affect construction

Finally, Legal Director and Brexit expert Malcom Dowden tackled the difficult, fast-changing state of Brexit, setting out the current key issues and concerns for the construction and engineering industry. 

This included him explaining the position around delays at near and surrounding borders, whether tariffs must be charged on imports, how customs procedures work, the "Brexercise" recently carried out by the Port of Rotterdam, the challenges of transferring personal data under GDPR post-Brexit, key points in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, and important terms to review or consider in existing or future contracts.    

After the conference, he said "Brexit presents business with a unique problem: resilience planning is an urgent priority, yet even with publication the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, many points remain uncertain. The day of our Annual Construction Law Conference was, in Brexit terms, relatively quiet, but still saw the Supreme Court ruling against the UK government's attempt to block a European Court hearing to determine whether Article 50 can be paused or revoked, and the Governor of the Bank of England warning the Treasury Select Committee about the adverse economic consequences of a "no deal" Brexit. Nonetheless, we decided to focus on the practical steps that business can take – from measures to protect continuity of supply to contractual reviews and amendments to mitigate the risks of a disorderly exit."

If you are interested in Brexit, please visit our Brexit Hub, which is a source of up to date news, comment and advice as we move towards Brexit.