Kerry Lawrence is an attorney in Seattle, Wash., whose practice is focused entirely on construction issues. He has served as a project neutral on a number of construction projects and as a past president of the North America Region for the DRB Foundation. Mr. Lawrence can be reached at: www.lawrencefinkelstein.com.
The construction industry has long recognized the need for a speedy and expert way of addressing problems on construction projects. If left unresolved, problems are likely to disrupt and delay completion of projects and possibly interfere with their success. Over 100 years ago, construction disputes were resolved at the job site by having the project architect or engineer make non-binding decisions. If either party disagreed with the architect or engineer’s decision, the problem would be submitted to an informal ad hoc arbitration convened promptly at the project site. These two processes complemented each other. The architect or engineer had an incentive to be scrupulously fair because his or her decision could be challenged in a prompt arbitration. As a result, relatively few decisions by architects or engineers needed to be challenged.