The Impact of the Recent Economic Recession on the NEC Contract in Northern Ireland: A Preliminary Study

Tara Brooks, John P. Spillane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)
428 Downloads (Pure)


In comparison to the rest of the United Kingdom (UK) the Northern Irish Construction Industry was disproportionately affected by the recent economic recession. During this period, use of the New Engineering Contract (NEC) has proliferated in the public sector, however no study has been undertaken to examine the impact of the recession on this contract in Northern Ireland. The aim of this paper is to explore NEC contract implementation in Northern Ireland and the impact of the recession on its operation. A qualitative methodology is adopted using a literature review and semi structured interviews with six construction professionals. A qualitative analysis identifies themes and issues arising exploring connections and links between them using thematic coding. The initial findings are that the introduction of the NEC contract in Northern Ireland makes demands of contractors and consultants in terms of additional resources and training. Some consultants show a clear lack of understanding of the contract and its provisions. Whilst there is general agreement that the contract does help to stimulate good project management, the interviewees find the contract time consuming and complicated to administer, describing it as “unforgiving for the architect and unforgiving to the contractor.” Due to the impact of the recession, both contractors and consultants are still reporting a drop in income from pre-recession levels. Project resourcing levels have dropped significantly since the onset of the recession. Adversarial and opportunistic behaviour has increased. Many consultants and contractors are struggling to adequately administer the NEC contract at current income levels. The introduction of the NEC contract and the economic recession have exerted opposing forces on the implementation of the contract, hindering its execution. As the pressures exerted by the economic recession abate and a greater understanding of the contract develops, these opposing forces will ease leading to a more consistent implementation of the contract.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 31st Annual ARCOM Conference
EditorsA. B. Raidén, E. Aboagye-Nimo
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2015
Event31st ARCOM Conference - Lincoln, United Kingdom
Duration: 07 Sep 201509 Sep 2015


Conference31st ARCOM Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • NEC Contract
  • Procurement
  • Recession


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