Let’s take this scenario: You as the main contractor have an electrical subcontract with a scope to install hangars, tray and wiring. This is a tight space where mechanical services are dependent on the same hangars that the tray are installed on. Not only this but the fire and comms trades require the tray that the electrical contractor is installing to run their wiring.
A delay to the works
The electrical subcontractor’s time to mobilise has come but they are having trouble getting electricians. They have now decided to ramp up a bit later than planned. They say not to worry because they are still confident of hitting their contractual completion date because they will bring in extra resources and compress their programme.
The problem is that all the trades relying on the hangars and tray won’t be able to start on time and will also be competing for space with that over resourced electrical subcontractor. This results in a knock on delay to the entire mechanical and electrical fit out with claims pouring into the main contractor for delayed access by the dependent subbies.
9 times out of 10 the subcontract will be let with a single completion date!
You realise that this will cause chaos so you defer to the contract. Only to realise that the contract has been let in the typical way – with a single completion date and no other contractual time constraints!
This leaves you with no real contractual stick to hit the electrical contractor with because their contract has a clearly defined scope of work that needs to be done by a certain time. They will say that they have priced the work to do it to one date and if you start telling them differently that is going to cost you. Not only that but there is no obligation for the subcontractor to accelerate even if instructed (assuming unmodified NEC terms).
“How could we have set the contract up better to manage all these interfaces?”, you wonder to yourself. The answer is Key dates!
Key Dates to the Rescue
What is a Key date? Key Date is a defined term in the NEC suite which comes with delay damages, it is described as follows:
A Key Date is the date by which work is to meet the Condition stated. The Key Date is the key date stated in the Contract Data and the Condition is the condition stated in the Contract Data unless later changed in accordance with this contract.
Now let’s say you put in a key date for the installation of the hangars and tray by a certain date. You could even split this further by area if you have a particularly complex project. Now there is a risk of delay damages and the subcontractor will do everything required to achieve that date. This will cost you nothing and all the others subcontractors will be able to start on schedule. It is as simple as that.
Key dates are an amazing tool that are used to contractually enforce intermediate milestones where there are major interfaces. A strong subcontract will be full of them for every critical interface.
Developing a key date strategy for your subcontracts is a very simple way to make sure all trades on site are working toward the same overall programme of works and you are protected against knock-on delay risks.