On a high level, construction delay litigation involves sorting out the impacts to the critical project path and determining which party is responsible for those impacts. One of the more difficult elements of this process is determining whether a delay would have occurred regardless of one party’s critical path impact due to a separate, independent impact to the critical path by the other party. For example, a contractor cannot collect delay damages for delays caused by the owner if the contractor itself was causing independent impacts that would have pushed off the completion date anyway.
However, the concept of “pacing” provides a potential defense for a party who is not on pace with the as-planned schedule for noncritical activities, even where those activities are still ongoing after the planned completion date. “Pacing delays” are a type of concurrent delay that occur when one party makes a conscious decision to decelerate or slow down the pace of noncritical activities to keep pace with the critical delays of another party. A more formal definition would be “deceleration of the work of the project, by one of the parties to a contract, due to a delay caused by the other party, so as to maintain steady progress with the revised overall project schedule.” Zack, Pacing Delays–The Practical Effect, Construction Specifier 47, 48 (Jan. 2000). A party to the construction process may decide to slow down its performance of noncritical activities to keep pace with the delayed progress. For example, contractors may adjust the pace of their work in light of delays in owner-furnished equipment, delays by other multiple prime contractors, delays in permits, limited access, or differing site conditions. Owners may slow down their response time to requests for information or submittals, or postpone the delivery of owner-furnished equipment or the processing of change orders. Id. at 48.