Tarriffs, a Pandemic and War: Construction Contracts Must Withstand the Unforeseeable

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Reducing and fairly allocating the impacts of events starts with negotiation of contract clauses that provide at least some protection to the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers from increased costs and delay.

May 16, 2022
Brett Moritz, Adrian Bastianelli III & Adam Handfinger - Construction Executive

Since the tariffs on steel and the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry has been reeling from the impact of material shortages and price increases, labor shortages, breakdowns in the supply chain and the inflationary effect of these issues. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine has only exacerbated the situation.

International conflicts can constrain supply, resulting in delays and price increases for contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. The disruption caused by the war is expected to be particularly acute due to the role that Russia and Ukraine play in the world economy and the effect of the economic sanctions that have been imposed on Russia by the United States and other countries. Russia controls approximately 10% of the global copper reserves and is estimated to produce about 10% of the world’s nickel supply. It also provides at least 30% of Europe’s oil and natural gas. Ukraine is a significant source of raw materials, such as iron. Thus, the war will cause significant shortages and price increases to the global construction industry. There are already reports of delays and cost increases for commodities such as nickel, aluminum, copper and—most importantly—steel, which have resulted in impacts to construction costs and schedules. Suppliers are especially sensitive to the volatile markets caused by these conditions. Some are insisting on automatic price increases in their purchase orders.

All of this, not to mention the anticipation of what may come next, points to the necessity for a new paradigm to achieve a successful project. It is more important today than ever that owners, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers reasonably address the economic and time impacts of these unforeseeable events in preparing contracts for future work and in administering existing contracts. Otherwise, the risk of a default on more than one level may put projects in jeopardy, to no one’s benefit.

Reprinted courtesy of Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.


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