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A Message from the Editor, 2nd Edition | Tom Dunn, Construction Lawyer, Pierce Atwood, LLP

Deliberative Communication is the theme of this edition of AGC’s Building Best Practices publication.  We all have our routines, specialty areas, comfort zones, and standard forms/practices, but what happens when we or our employees travel outside those lanes or when we lose even a momentary focus within them?  Maintaining a spirit of continuous learning, improvement, and awareness throughout the construction process on each job we tackle helps us stay in the moment and engage with other members of the project team.  
Patrick Saltmarsh highlighted J. Derenzo’s innovative practice of thinking for 60 seconds before starting a task.  He emphasizes engagement amongst the crew members during JHA reviews and critical thinking – not just reading and listening.  One key takeaway from Saltmarsch’s article is that communication with yourself may be one of the most important strategies to employ to eliminate safety incidents. 

Tyler Oakes echoes deliberative communication in ensuring that you are teamed up with reliable project partners and that you have access to the information necessary to ensure proper risk planning in residential construction.  I agree with his recommendations that you should include in your standard subcontracts the contractual right to obtain copies of your subcontractors’ insurance policies and be proactive in implementing QA/QC policies in those areas known to be particularly risky and litigious in residential construction.

The technological improvements made to the procurement and submittal communications process were summarized by Chris Karian.  What used to take weeks, now takes just a few days and everything is done electronically.  The technology incentivizes action and accountability amongst the various project team members in that you do not want a review item to be “in your court” to slow down the project. Using concise emails of “hot list” items makes sure everyone is on the same page as to priority tasks.
Christy Murphy ends her article by stating that “the change management process can be one of the pillars for a successful project.”  She addresses the reality that owners, architects, and contractors sometimes defer discussions on changes during the project and provides practices that should be employed to avoid that from occurring.  From my perspective as counsel, while there are some legitimate change disputes where both parties have reasonable positions grounded in the contract, most change disputes result from failures in contemporaneous and candid communication. An OPM can help owners manage this process. It is important to have those uncomfortable discussions and to communicate your points in a deliberative and collaborative manner.

Tom Dunn is a construction attorney at Pierce Atwood representing contractors, subcontractors, and owners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  For the past 14 years, Tom has regularly assisted clients in contract drafting/negotiation as well as dispute avoidance/resolution through consulting/negotiations during the project and/or in mediation, arbitration, or litigation.

Pierce Atwood LLP is a general practice law firm with offices in Boston, throughout New England, and in Washington D.C. For more information, visit or contact Tom Dunn directly at or 508-838-9779


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