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The Engineer is dead. Long live the engineer!

by Donald Charrett

Dr Donald Charrett (2010) Society of Construction Law HK; (2010) 134 ACLN 20.

This paper was delivered at a meeting of the Society of Construction Law Hong Kong on 21 June 2010. The paper was awarded the Society’s essay prize for 2009. It was subsequently published in (2010) 134 Australian Construction Law News 20. Traditionally, the engineer “wore many hats” in connection with a construction project – as promoter, designer, project manager, contract administrator, certifier, adjudicator and sometimes even arbitrator.

A number of those functions were fulfilled as “the Engineer” under a construction contract, in which the engineer, although engaged by the Employer, was expected to act independently of both contract parties in his/her administration of the contract. It is apparent that that role is largely defunct under many modern construction contracts. The changing role of the Engineer is illustrated by reference to caselaw and modern construction contracts. Examples are given of major problems which have arisen from an inappropriate contractual role for the Engineer resulting from inadequate definition, execution and coordination of the various engineering functions. It is suggested that, notwithstanding the changed role of the engineer, the definition and proper execution of these functions are as important to the successful outcome of projects as ever.

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