Court case highlights spec change dangers

A recent Northern Ireland High Court case has highlighted challenges that can be faced when a specification is changed.

The court heard how new build apartments in Newtonards, Northern Ireland, had been specified with a BBA-approved full tanking solution with an insurance-backed warranty. However, a quantity surveying error costed less than a quarter of the required product, leading to a specification switch to a cheaper, partially tanked solution. The product substitution required a higher degree of workmanship than the original specification and was not BBA certified or insurance-backed. The installation failed, with the design change, workmanship shortcomings and inadequate supervision blamed.

BBA deputy chief executive, Brian Moore, said: “We fear that this kind of problem is happening daily, both by accident and design. This case should act as powerful reminder to all building professionals that product substitution, purely on the ground of costs, will often turn out to be a false economy when things go wrong. Your professional reputation is everything, so always look for the hallmarks of quality like the BBA Certificate and insurance-backed guarantee.”

The court applied a ‘net contribution clause’ in favour of the architect, limiting its liability. Such clauses state that where two or more parties involved in a construction project are each jointly liable for the same loss or damage, the liability of each party will be limited to the amount which would be apportioned to that party by a court.