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Foundation World / Talking points / Article

Who takes the risk?
A European survey revealed some marked differences in how the various markets and their foundation contractors deal with ground conditions risk. Mike Putnam examines the results.

Soil risk is of serious concern to foundation contractors across Europe. A brief straw poll carried out at the European Federation of Foundation Contractors executive committee meeting in London during October 1998 led to the Contracts working group being tasked with investigating soil risk in more detail.

The main aim was to attempt to identify on whom in the construction process the risk on soils and ground conditions rests, to find out the custom and practice of each member country and to come up with some recommendations on the EFFC’s desired way forward.

In an attempt to achieve consistency, the working group developed a ground conditions risk questionnaire, which was used to obtain a picture of practice in some of the main European countries.

Because there are many different risks associated with working in the ground, the term “soil risk” was deemed to be too narrow and potentially confusing. It was changed to “ground conditions risk” to include all risk arising from existing ground conditions including soil behaviour, design performance, soil variability, natural and unnatural obstructions (known and unknown), contamination and method risk.

The questionnaire was designed to clarify the degree of risk transfer for each of these risks separately against the different forms of contract (private, public and public-private partnerships). To keep the form simple and easy to follow, a common scoring frequency range was devised on a scale 1 (never) to 5 (always).

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