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Construction law courses to delve into contracts, disputes

Peter Caulfield
Construction law courses to delve into contracts, disputes

The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC (ICBA) is sponsoring two construction law courses that will take place on April 27 and 28 in Prince George, and May 8 and 9 in Burnaby.

ICBA director of training Sabine Just says the courses are open to both association members and the general public.

According to the course description, participants will learn about contract law as it relates to construction and the various CCDC/CCA (Canadian Construction Documents Association/Canadian Construction Association) documents and other contracts used in the industry.

Other subjects to be covered are the B.C. Builders Lien Act and the other legal means to resolve construction disputes and avoid litigation.

The course comprises two days, totalling 16 hours, of classroom lessons with instructors, plus a seven-to-eight-hour online portion involving research, reading and answering questions that will be marked by instructors.

The course is being presented by BGC (Building Great Constructors) Partners Inc. of Abbotsford, B.C.

"Construction law is a hot topic now as the industry has become increasingly complex," said BGC president Tim Williams. "Construction schedules are being sped up with the result that everyone has less time to do everything that needs to be done. This development has created greater opportunities for both increased collaboration and greater conflict."

Williams said more and more risk is being pushed down from general contractors and project owners to contractors, subtrades and suppliers.

"They need to learn how to negotiate effectively with the people they’re working for," he said.

BGC Partners has been presenting construction law courses to members of construction associations across Western Canada since 2010.

In March 2017, the firm presented a two-day course for members of the Merit Contractors Association Saskatchewan (Merit SK).

"This is the third year that we have offered a construction law seminar," said Merit SK learning and development co-ordinator Cheryl Monette.

All of Merit SK’s seminars are offered in both Saskatoon and Regina, depending on interest and enrolment.

"This year we combined the two sessions into one offering in Davidson, which is approximately half-way between the two cities," Monette said. "Due to insufficient enrolment to conduct sessions in both Saskatoon and Regina, participants drove and met halfway."

Construction law has become more popular with Merit SK members in the last three to five years, said executive director Karen Low.

"As construction becomes more complex, there’s more involved in contract negotiation and there are more instances of contracts being taken to court," said Low. "In addition, there’s more money involved in construction projects now and there are more opportunities for things to go wrong."

Most of the participants were large "for Saskatchewan," said Low, made up of roadbuilders and general contractors of 100 to 150 employees.

The next construction law course sponsored by Merit SK will probably take place in 2018 sometime between January and April, which is the downtime for the Saskatchewan construction industry.

The construction law course presented to members of Merit SK, the ICBA and other western Canadian construction associations takes place in a classroom.

Unlike them, however, BuildForce Canada, offers a construction law course that is online.

The four-hour course is intended for people in the construction industry who deal in trade-to-trade or trade-to-customer business relationships.

According to the course description, Construction Law covers construction contracts and contract law; liabilities and responsibilities of all parties to a contract; compiling and submitting extras and claims; and how to avoid conflict with contracts, owners, trades and labour.

"What is especially topical is the idea of fostering collaborative working relationships over adversarial ones, because of the desire to increase worksite productivity," said Rosemary Sparks, executive director of BuildForce, whose mandate is managing construction industry workforce requirements.

All the online courses are intended for the industry to blend into other courses with a classroom component, so students can do role-playing, communication and interaction.

The construction law course will be updated later this spring for technology and content.

"We want to make it available on all technology platforms," said Sparks.

The courses developed by BuildForce are distributed throughout Canada by a network of 110 construction associations, construction safety associations, unions and private trainers.

Its biggest seller is still the Pipeline Construction Safety Training.

"Despite all the controversy, pipelines are still being built in Canada," Sparks said.

Its latest offering is an online course on construction ethics that has been made compulsory for Gold Seal certification by the Canadian Construction Association.

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