Jobsite logistics, resource loading, critical path scheduling, building information modeling. These are some of the technical studies of construction management students and the practices of construction management professionals. But a construction project is more complex than its technical issues. Thousands of people from hundreds of different companies might come together for a single project. They may never have worked together before. They may never work together again. Construction management is the study and practice of human relationships. How does a construction manager motivate strangers to cooperate with each other to achieve common goals and objectives?
Ask an engineer to design a climate control system that keeps a building’s temperature and humidity at ideal levels over every square foot of floor space, all year around. Given sufficient time and money that engineer will gladly agree to do so. But ask that engineer to design a climate control system that causes the building’s occupants to respect each other, to always work in harmony with each other. That engineer’s reply will certainly be, “No. I can’t do that.” Engineers, architects, and construction managers – they get to choose the problems that they want to solve.
During a project, human relationships can become strained. Strained relationships can worsen into disputes. When there is unwillingness or inability to solve these disputes, the courts are asked to intercede; to find remedies for claims. The courts do not have the luxury of choosing between the problems that they wish to solve and those that they do not. That a problem is too messy or intractable does not excuse the courts from solving it. It also happens that the messiest and most intractable problems tend to be the most significant, and timely problems. Our court system is the end point of our search for remedies to our most important problems.
Our court system finds remedies for problems within a patchwork of common law judicial decisions, statutory laws, and agency regulations. This patchwork is often criticized for being overly complex. It is certainly complex, but not by choice. People are complex. To the extent that our courts solve people problems, the reasoning of the courts will also be complex. Construction law has no choice but to reflect the complexity of people and the relationships that they form.