Report on Manchester Lecture

This, the Second Manchester Lecture, was held again at the Emirates Old Trafford and proved a popular venue for those attending.  Intended as an annual event, it was interrupted by Covid restriction for the previous two years.  It is jointly run by The Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (CICES) and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and attracts a full house and top class speakers from around the country.

The event was opened by Nikki Sharp, consultant solicitor and chair elect of the North West Branch of CIArb. Nikki welcomed the one hundred and twenty delegates from various sectors of the construction industry. In a nice aside, and to general acclaim, Nikki honoured Paul Jensen by presenting him with a framed certificate and letter of tribute from Lord Justice Coulson to commemorate Paul’s being appointed co-Patron, with Sir Rupert Jackson, of the North West Branch of the Institute. Paul a fellow and long-time supporter of CIArb, is a well-known adjudicator and arbitrator and was deeply moved by the award.

The Theme

This year’s theme was ‘Build Back Better’ with the emphasis on the use of advanced digital technology on the engineering/surveying side and better planning and co-operative working on the ‘claims prevention’ side. There were a total of seven speakers and in keeping with efficiency of the professions represented, the day’s packed programme ran to time, indeed ahead of time.

The Speakers

Speakers ranging over a wide spectrum of ideas and topics were introduced by Ken Salmon chair of education for the North West Branch of CIArb and a consultant solicitor and mediator. He was able to discover and inform those attending of some less well-known attributes of the speakers as repeated below.

The first speaker, Jonathan Wood, solicitor and head of International Arbitration at RPC, took delegates on a magic carpet ride to Turkey and a five-day mediation concerning the partial destruction by an earthquake of the Instanbul/Ankara highway. It transpired that the key to reaching a solution was to understand that mediating in Turkey was like buying a carpet: it was a price haggle.

The mid-morning break allowed access to the sponsors and net-working opportunities for many and a chance to catch up on missed calls and work for some.

Lauren Holland and Mark Lawton demonstrated in words, slides and video the geospatial use of technology to effect cost and value for clients and others. Lauren is a land surveyor with musical talents, who uses geospatial tech to help plan set up and control construction operations. Mark is a surveying engineer at Skanska who has lead on the largest highways project in the UK, and who is a serious clay pigeon shootist. Their presentation certainly hit the mark.

After a healthy and delicious lunch, delegates returned to hear May Winfeld Global Director of Digital and Legal Risk at Buro Happold. A senior construction lawyer May is a leading legal specialist in BIM and construction technology about which she has written and produced guidance notes. May, who began learning computer coding at age 4 and was clearly destined to enter the digital world, explained how BIM and digital-related services and technologies inform and manage risk.

Mark Wheeler is the Global Chief Operating Office of Driver Trett whose favourite film line in context of his talk was: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth” [Jack Nicholson A Few Good Men]. As his witty exposition of what can go wrong with construction projects unfolded, we heard that the truth is often unpalatable to the commercial players and he entreated the audience to recognize the benefits of better (robust) commercial management.

Following the afternoon break we resumed with Chris Chambers, Deputy Director of the UK Geospatial Commission on the subject of NUAR (the National Underground Asset Register which will identify the location of pipes and cables) which is due to be rolled out region by region over the UK in 2022 and 2023 (and beyond). He told us that the pipes and cables running under the nearby Stretford Road belonged to no less than 68 different undertakers! His talk caused something of a stir when it was revealed that the Register when completed will not be open to all, the format in which information may be stored / accessed is yet to be decided as is the question of who pays its compilation! Delegates requested and were promised further local consultation.

The educational part of the day was rounded off in his usual boisterous style by Paul Darling QC OBE. Paul is an eminent silk at 39 Essex Street and General Editor of Wilmot-Smith on Construction Contracts. Paul recounted with unashamed admiration his first encounters with Paul Jensen when they were both young advocates and went on to add a colourful account of some of his experiences in the hazardous world of construction dispute resolution, beset as it is, with risk and pleasant and not so pleasant surprises, as well as awkward witnesses and unsympathetic judges.

The proceedings were closed with thanks to speakers, sponsors, delegates and the venue, by Ann Allen the CEO of CICES. Heather McGinty, of CICES, who had personally arranged and co-ordinated the arrangements for the event, was given a special vote of thanks and presented with a bouquet of flowers.

The Sponsors

  • CCi
  • Damian James
  • Decipher
  • Driver Trett
  • Hanscomb Intercontinental
  • Hexagon Leica

Ken Salmon
Chair of education for CIArb N W