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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

George Taft

George Taft

Secretariat1310 Solihull ParkwayBirmingham Business ParkBirminghamEnglandB37 7YB

Thought Leader

Thought Leaders - Construction Experts 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

George Taft is "well respected" by peers who dub him an "excellent expert with lots of experience".

Questions & Answers

George Taft is a Managing Director at Secretariat International and has nearly 30 years’ experience in the Construction Industry. He is a well-known expert in the field of quantum analysis – focused on the evaluation of costs and pricing of construction projects. He has testified on numerous occasions in International Arbitration and in the English High Court – and has acted as both party-appointed expert and as a Tribunal-appointed and a Dispute-Board Independent Assessor. His record of appointments includes a number of very high-profile projects, major arbitrations and independent assessor roles. 

Describe your career to date.

After obtaining a degree in Quantity Surveying at a leading UK university, I worked for major contractors on large building and civil engineering projects frequently based on site. I progressed through contractor commercial management positions and then I took a strategic career change to work for a consultant (and my work then was typically on behalf of Employers) so that I had experience on both sides of the fence. I experienced, first-hand, construction projects suffering severe cost overruns and the challenges of dispute resolution processes. It was this experience, that ultimately led to me developing my expertise as a quantum analyst and, increasingly, as an expert witness in formal dispute processes and also advising in the avoidance of disputes. During this part of my career, I become a partner at a well-known international consultant from 2003-15; and then a Managing Director at a leading global consultant providing expert services from 2015. 

What has been your most challenging construction case to date and why?

There are a number of high-profile arbitrations on which I have acted as quantum expert and which have been extremely demanding due to the extent and complexity of the issues and the pressure of the formal process. Perhaps amongst the most challenging is a contract termination case on a major project on which there are numerous claims and counterclaims, and correspondingly, multiple pleadings, reports and hearings. Many of these claims involve technical issues and a range of factual and legal facets which have created a huge range of considerations – all of which impact upon the potential quantum of the claims. 

How has the market changed since you first started practising?

The remarkable advances in IT have, on the one-hand, assisted in collating and processing information, but on the other-hand, the sheer volume of data and the speed in which it is made available has introduced new challenges to the work of experts. Another change in the past 25-30 years is that there are a greater number of consultants who have sought to make a career in the dispute and claims consultant arena, but it appears that an increasing proportion of these perhaps have limited experience of being a practitioner (e.g. as a quantity surveyor, engineer or planner) in the construction industry. 

Have you seen a significant increase in any specific types of cases in recent years? 

I have seen an apparent increase in cases in some parts of the world where disputes have arisen as a result of contract termination which, almost by definition, are likely to be polarised cases. There also appear to have been increases in claims and disputes associated with cost escalation. Finally, I have observed a significant volume of professional negligence cases, though I cannot be sure if this represents an increase.  

How can those in construction industry best handle claims arising from the covid-19 crisis?

My main recommendation would be for Employers (and their consultants/representatives) and Contractors to do all they can to engage with each other and seek to find agreement. The first step would be to agree the individual micro-impacts and the nature of their effects; and then a measured and proportionate means of evaluation of these effects. Also, efforts should clearly be made to maintain relevant contemporaneous records to help support the evaluation and reduce the scope for disagreement. Anything to avoid disagreement and escalation to a dispute – would clearly be an enormous benefit to the parties and stakeholders of such construction projects.

Which types of projects are resulting in the most disputes at the moment? Why do you think this is?

I am seeing considerable volumes of disputes arising from very large infrastructure projects – particularly those with major sub-surface work and exposure to the risks that arise during the design and construction processes. Such projects demand enormous investment in design, planning and construction as well as the highest standards of management and technical support. Constructive cooperative relationships between the parties is also enormously beneficial. As discussed, there is also a growing number of cases arising due to the impact of covid-19.

What challenges do you face with the increased volume of data being used in disputes?

An expert is typically expected to find relevant information and know sufficient details to be able to speak to any issue pertinent to the analysis he or she undertakes; at times, in practice, this can be an almost impossible task. The advances in IT have assisted in collating and processing information, but the sheer volume of data and the speed in which it is made available is frequently not matched by clear, structured presentation. Clients, their legal teams and Tribunals need to be realistic about what is achievable, and the timetable, to ensure that justice is done. 

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

Whilst I always want to be able to simply do my best to conduct my work as an expert with integrity and competence, the challenges of the work we do often means that the desire to achieve these objectives comes at a cost. Sometimes there can be adverse effects to well-being and a healthy work-life balance and I am keen to improve in how I manage my work in this respect.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

George Taft is "well respected" by peers who dub him an "excellent expert with lots of experience".

Biography

Mr Taft is a managing director of Secretariat, based in the UK. Secretariat specialises in providing independent expert advice on construction projects in the areas of programming and scheduling (delay and disruption), quantum analysis  and general damages.

Mr Taft is a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors with 30 years of experience and has been engaged as a quantum expert on some of the world's largest and most high-profile projects. He is typically appointed on large construction disputes with complex quantification issues. His areas of expertise include costs of building construction and major civil engineering, including piling, dewatering, tunnelling, rail, concrete and steel structures, together with large-scale earthworks and offshore and marine works.

Mr Taft has been cross-examined on numerous occasions in a range of dispute processes (particularly international arbitration and litigation in the English High Court) and has also had wide experience of witness-conferencing. His experience as a practitioner indifferent areas of the construction industry, whilst working for both contractors and employers, has enabled him to provide valuable insights when acting as a quantum expert or when advising on the resolution of or avoidance of disputes.

Mr Taft is regularly appointed as a quantum expert on a wide range of major construction disputes throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. He often acts as a party-appointed expert but has also been engaged as an independent assessor by tribunals or dispute boards for example, on the Panama Canal Expansion and the Bosphorus Crossing.

Mr Taft also frequently acts as expert adviser to clients outside of formal dispute processes; and also independent auditor on behalf of banks and donors supporting investment on programmes such as the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement project. He provides clients with forensic quantum analyst services; consultation during alternative dispute resolution processes; claim assembly, defence and negotiation; and advice on valuation methodologies.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

George Taft is a distinguished figure in the construction sector, highly respected for “his exceptional work on large-scale construction disputes”.

Biography

Mr Taft is a managing director of Secretariat International, based in the UK. Secretariat specialises in providing independent expert advice on construction projects in the areas of programming and scheduling (delay and disruption), quantum analysis and general damages.

Mr Taft is a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors with 30 years of experience, and has been engaged as a quantum expert on some of the world's largest and highest-profile projects. He is typically appointed on large construction disputes with complex quantification issues. His areas of expertise include costs of building construction and major civil engineering, including piling, dewatering, tunnelling, rail, concrete and steel structures, together with large-scale earthworks and offshore and marine works.

Acknowledged as a leading expert on the quantum of claims on construction contracts, Mr Taft has been cross-examined on numerous occasions in a range of dispute processes (particularly international arbitration and litigation in the English High Court) and has also had wide experience of witness-conferencing. His experience as a practitioner in different areas of the construction industry, while working for both contractors and employers, has enabled him to provide valuable insights when acting as a quantum expert or when advising on the resolution of or avoidance of disputes. Mr Taft is also relied upon for his ability to distil complex quantum issues on matters with large volumes of cost evidence and to articulate them clearly to assist the parties and Tribunals.

Mr Taft is regularly appointed as a quantum expert on a wide range of major construction disputes throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. He often acts as a party-appointed expert but has also been engaged as an independent assessor by tribunals or dispute boards, for example, on the Panama Canal Expansion and the Bosphorus Crossing.

Mr Taft also frequently acts as expert adviser to clients outside of formal dispute processes; and as independent auditor on behalf of banks and donors supporting investment on programmes such as the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement project. He provides clients with forensic quantum analyst services; consultation during alternative dispute resolution processes; and claim assembly, defence and negotiation; advice on valuation methodologies. He also delivers seminars, training and articles on these subjects.

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