JCT Design & Build Contract 2024

By Michelle Dixon, Partner & Head of Construction Law

Those in the construction industry will know by now that the Joint Contracts Tribunal have released the JCT Design & Build Contract 2024 and its back-to-back Sub-Contract, together with their Guides.

I can hardly believe the last set was released in 2016, which feels like yesterday, but the law has changed quite a bit since then as in that time, we have had Grenfell, Covid and Brexit. So, what’s new in the 2024 contract?

Modernising: Electronic signatures and most notices can be sent by email (except payment after termination). The contract itself can be electronically executed. The contract also uses gender-neutral language.

Design liability: Specific reference to the Contractor having no greater duty than to exercise reasonable skill and care than an appropriate professional designer. A fitness for purpose design obligation has now been expressly excluded (to the extent that it can by law).

There is also a slight change to include that the fitness for habitation duty covers work on an existing dwelling too.

Building Safety Act 2022: The BSA 2022 creates the power to prescribe, in building regulations, requirements on those who procure, plan, manage and undertake building work, also known as ‘duty-holders’, including requirements as to their competence. The Building Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2214) sets out duty-holder requirements which apply to all projects in England (not for project contracts in Wales) to which the BR 2010 apply. So, the Employer and the Contractor have contractual obligations to comply with their duties under the Building Regulations, but the contract does not specifically address issues in relation to higher-risk building work, save for a reference in the Guide.

There is also an express provision for appointing a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor for the purposes of Building Regulation compliance (in addition to CDM 2015).

Extensions of Time (Relevant Event) / Loss and Expense (Relevant Matter): Unsurprisingly, a new Relevant Event has been added where an epidemic causes a delay to the works because of the unavailability of labour and/or materials.

An update to the existing Relevant Event relating to the exercise of statutory powers for changes in law and guidance by the UK Government or other recognised industry bodies.
An expansion on the existing antiquities provision to include the discovery of asbestos, contaminated material, or unexploded ordnance. Unless the material was already identified in Contract Documents.

Notice of an interim Extension of Time decision has been reduced from 12 to 8 weeks. Employer’s requests for information supporting a delay claim must now be made within 14 days.

Termination: Express inclusion of specific timings and a separate payment mechanism process for the payment due date after termination. It sets a stricter timeframe, imposing a two-month due date for the Termination Payment (as opposed to three-months).

Based on the new epidemic and change of law provisions it allows a party to terminate if suspension continues for an extended period.

It also includes specific impact on sub-contracts, including a sub-contractor being entitled to suspend performance on termination of the building contract, while it is waiting to see if a step-in notice is served.

Insolvency: Two new insolvency grounds have been added as introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

Collaborative working etc.: Previously in the Supplemental Provision you would state whether you wanted collaborative working, sustainability, and negotiations of disputes to apply. These are now expressly included.

Liquidated damages: Liquidated damages will be recoverable until the works are completed or, if earlier, the contract is terminated; after that they will form part of a claim for general damages.

Professional Indemnity Insurance: An ability to agree sub-limits within the overall level of cover and any exclusions from the insurance policy; this being in line with restrictions in insurance cover since the cladding crisis.

Fluctuations: Deleted reference to it and available on the JCT website as a supplemental option.

What’s next?

The Design & Build Contract 2024 is the first of the suite to be released but more are expected over the course of 2024.

How can HK Law help?

The HK Law team offers specialist expert knowledge and extensive experience in Construction Law, which sets us apart from other local law firms.

We help both with disputes and with the contract packages, for example drafting and advising on bespoke contracts, standard form contracts such as the JCT suite, terms and conditions, warranties, and professional consultant appointments.

On the dispute side we act for either the landowner or consumer, the developer, main contractors/ sub contractors, all types of traders, and professional designers. Both for residential clients and commercial clients.

For further information, please contact Michelle Dixon, Partner in the Construction team on 01202 725405 or email m.dixon@hklaw.uk. HK Law has offices in Blandford, Bournemouth, Crewkerne, Dorchester, Parkstone, Poole, Swanage, and Wareham.

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