How Relational are Construction Contracts?

  • Cheung S
  • Yiu K
  • Chim P
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For many years, the construction industry has relied on formal contracts to define and enforce the obligations and rights of contracting parties. Legal scholars have suggested that, based on their transaction characteristics, there are three different forms of contracts: classical, neoclassical, and relational. Of these, which form is more appropriate for use in construction projects? With increasing awareness of the importance of teamwork in construction, there is clear evidence of a rising trend in adopting a partnering approach to construction project delivery. For projects that seek to achieve a partnering relationship, relational contracts that value relationships, trust, and communication appear to be the appropriate form of contract. This paper discusses the application of relational contracts in construction by examining the fundamental question "How relational are construction contracts?" The degree of relationalism is assessed using a relational index comprising eight factors: cooperation, organizational culture, risk, trust, good faith, flexibility, the use of alternative dispute resolution, and contract duration. It was found that in the traditional design–bid–build form of delivery, the main contract and domestic subcontract forms are more relational than those of the nominated subcontract and the direct labor contract. The study was conducted in Hong Kong.

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  • Sai On Cheung

  • Kenneth T. Yiu

  • Pui Shan Chim

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