GSBCA Services Streamline Dispute Resolution on Major Construction Project GSA/NIH Development Agreement with Boston Properties, Inc., uses Alternative Dispute Resolution
December 23, 1996
Contact: Hap Connors
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. General Services Administration announced today the innovative use of its own resources in an effort to streamline the resolution of disputes which arise on major construction projects.
GSA signed a development agreement with Boston Properties, Inc., establishing GSA's Board of Contract Appeals (GSBCA) as a standing neutral to provide alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services throughout the construction of a $330 million facility at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) main campus in Maryland. The facility is expected to take seven years to complete.
GSA is a leading practitioner of ADR within the Government and has found it to be a valuable tool for resolving disputes and avoiding protracted, costly litigation.
"This agreement marks the first time that the GSBCA is serving in this role," said GSBCA Chief Judge Stephen M. Daniels. "It is consistent with our vision of promoting more expeditious and less costly alternatives to traditional litigation."
Planning and design work has already begun on the addition to the NIH Clinical Center Complex in Bethesda, Maryland, the federal government's primary biomedical research facility. Boston Properties, Inc., in consultation with GSA and NIH, will select and manage a team to plan, design and build the facility.
Daniels said that, unlike most dispute resolution procedures which are generally not invoked until after the work has been completed or the parties' positions have become intransigent, when asked the GSBCA will provide early assistance for disputes arising during contract performance. This should foster cooperation between parties, provide a forum for promptly and equitably resolving disputes and claims, and reduce project costs and construction time by minimizing delays and disruptions.
The GSBCA was chosen by GSA and Boston Properties, Inc., because of the Board's knowledge and experience in government contracting law, construction contracting and ADR services. The government's boards of contract appeals, which are housed in contracting agencies but operate independently of them, are designed to be informal, expeditious and inexpensive forums for dispute resolution. The GSBCA has recently revised its Rules of Procedure to emphasize its interest in promoting alternatives to traditional litigation. The GSBCA has also entered into Memoranda of Understanding with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of the Air Force to provide ADR services for these agencies.
Daniels designated Judges Anthony S. Borwick, Allan H. Goodman, and Mary Ellen Coster Williams to serve as a team of project neutrals. Whenever the contracting parties are unable to settle disagreements between themselves, these judges will mediate the disputes or conduct mini-trials and make recommendations for reaching accommodations without expensive and lengthy litigation. The recommendations will be made quickly and will not be binding on either party. If a dispute goes on to litigation, the other six members of the GSBCA will be available to serve as judges.
George Williams, NIH's Assistant Director for Design, Construction and Alterations Branch in the Division of Engineering Services, said, "For a true partnering agreement to work, the parties must have a process in which conflicts are equitably and efficiently resolved. This process offers both and will be of tremendous value during the contract's execution."
Bob Burke, Senior Vice President of Boston Properties, Inc., was equally enthusiastic about the prospect of using the GSBCA as a standing neutral on this project. "The GSBCA, which enjoys a reputation for impartiality, will be a welcome addition to this process," he said. "Having a mechanism for resolving differences between the parties is critical to maintaining positive working relationships."
A partnering session to formally kick off the project is planned for this winter.