Today the fourth tower of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s iconic cathedral in Barcelona, was completed. It’s a mere 141 years since the building of the cathedral started, which puts the delayed (and, also as of today) partly cancelled HS2 into perspective.
Gaudi’s vision included four towers to represent the four evangelists, and the fifth tower, representing the Virgin Mary and Jesus, is expected to be finished in 2026. The cathedral must be one of the worst project over-runs in history.
So why do huge projects over-run so badly?
There are always several factors which combine, but in the end they all come down to poor procurement: a lack of planning; failure to anticipate resource requirements and supply; client-led, statutory, and ground-related changes; and reactive project management are all in the mix. And all of these can be improved by using better tendering procedures and more appropriate, contracts.
My late father, a civil engineer, used to quote Sun Tzu/ the Duke of Wellington/Field Marshall Rommel (the attribution varies) in saying “time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted”. The maxim could as well be amended to “time spent pre-contract is seldom wasted”. A client’s desire to get going – and, in particular, politicians’ desire to be seen to get going – is usually at fault. What is needed is an unrushed consideration of the important points, drivers, and issues that might arise, together with careful drafting of the deal which aims to deliver a mutually-successful project - and no point-scoring or hidden agendas. There is, after all, no satisfaction for either party in a late project with delay damages, when an on-time project would be a source of pride and profit all round.
It is to be hoped that the last tower of the Sagrada Familia will be completed according to the current timescale and Gaudi’s design will at last be the finished, majestic paean that it was intended to be. And it is also to be hoped that no liquidated damages apply…
If you have any questions, our Construction and Engineering team will be happy to help.