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power and counter-power

Ever since the elections, The Hague has been buzzing with talk of power and counter-power; the balance between legislative and executive power. The call is to restore the dualism between Cabinet and Parliament. In a coalition country like the Netherlands, coalition agreements are usually voluminous and have been negotiated down to the very last detail. The result is a paralysed parliament; for four years, there is no room for new insights and open debates. Therefore, the curent formation process is sailing on the now famous A4 sheet with outlines. And subsequently on trust in a shared vision and the power of persuasion within the chamber.

The construction industry is also eagerly out for limited contractual terms without the traditional overload of specifications. Here too, we are moving towards more room for trust and the joint development of conditions between the builder, client and consultants. As members of a construction team, the executing parties can, for example, co-write the contractual basis for the realisation; hopefully with more support and fewer discussions about contract variations. In order to still be attractive during the economic boom, clients often render their requests low-risk for the builder.

These kinds of beautiful experiments have the potential to create a new relationship and more synergy between client and contractor. But in reality, builders usually hardly have any responsibilities or obligations in such a construction team phase, while once selected they no longer have any serious competition. After all, parting ways in the interim is rarely a realistic scenario. This creates a disproportionate dependency and, ultimately, the power often lies with the executing party. Which then imprisons the client with cost, time, image and process consequences.

Thus, the looser structure often leads to extra noise and discussion: there is mainly power and very little counter-power. Starting points may be formulated concisely, but they must not be too non-committal. The crux of the matter is not so much the number of A4 sheets, but rather what is written and who is given which tasks on them.

Ronald Schleurholts, architect-partner cepezed

Cobouw, 20 mei 2021