The DRB is the first recognised DAP model. It was first used in the United States in 1975 as a response to the high incidence of disputes being encountered on tunnelling and dam projects.
A DRB is comprised of a panel of three independent third-party experts who are jointly appointed by the contracting parties at the commencement of the project. The DRB members are made up a mix of members who have technical expertise in the type of construction being performed, in addition to having expertise in resolving issues of contractual interpretation and dispute resolution. Naturally, DRB members have tended to be a mixture of engineers, project managers and construction lawyers.
The DRB is required to engage in regular site visits and meetings with key project personnel, so that it can remain up to date with project developments. Given the DRB’s collective expertise, it can proactively assist the parties identify potential sources of disputes and help them avoid, manage and resolve any disputes that arise throughout ALL stages of construction.
If a conflict cannot be resolved, and a formal dispute follows, the DRB arranges an informal hearing, which takes on the form of a site-meeting rather than a trial. It is conducted swiftly so that the dispute can be resolved in ‘real-time’, before either party’s position becomes firmly entrenched. Unlike other dispute resolution methods, such as expert determination, arbitration, and litigation, where the parties must educate third-party fact finders about the project and dispute, long after construction has been completed, the DRB members are already very familiar with the project, and will know and understand the circumstances leading up to the dispute. Thus, when asked to assist in the resolution of a dispute, a DRB is able to provide a well-informed, quick, non-binding recommendation that, more often than not, leads to settlement of the dispute.
The contemporaneous resolution of construction conflicts and disputes can ensure that hostilities between all project personnel are kept to an absolute minimum, which is a key factor in ensuring that a project is completed with no outstanding disputes.
Although construction projects are traditionally characterised by adversarial attitudes and opportunistic behaviour, the very presence of a DRB motivates all project personnel to maintain harmonious working relations so as not to appear foolish and lose credibility in front of the DRB. Under the shadow of the DRB, the parties are motivated to focus on finding best for project solutions to problems encountered throughout construction, rather than engaging in an “us versus them” war that facilitates costly and drawn-out disputes.
For more information about the Dispute Review Board, please visit the Library.