In February 2021, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) launched the Planning Protocol 2021 (PP21). Unlike the name suggests, the PP21 is a best-practice guide for producing and assessing project programmes by reference to recognised industry standards. In this update, we explore some of the benefits the PP21 has on the construction sector.

Rather than relying on subjective assessments of quality by contractors and project teams, the PP21 aims to achieve more reliable and workable programmes which will promote the successful delivery of projects and assist in resolving time-related disputes. It has been designed so that it can be incorporated into both standard form construction contracts and bespoke agreements, as well as being capable of being adapted to suit a broad range of projects with varying degrees of complexity.

Typically, construction contracts will include provisions requiring a programme to be produced although further details setting out the fundamentals of planning and the form that the programme should take are often missing. Without an adequate and up-to-date programme, it becomes challenging to accurately measure progress, forecast completion dates and assess the impact of delays.

The PP21 seeks to address these issues by measuring the quality and suitability of a programme against a series of criteria or ‘stress tests’. Each test records an individual threshold outlining the minimum acceptable quality level for each phase of a project. The simple pass/fail structure removes subjectivity and encourages prompt revisions, with the idea that this leads to a more compliant programme. By way of example, stress test 12, states that calendars which do not reflect working restrictions or correctly allocate milestones will be considered poor planning practice and fail the stress test.

Through proper risk management the PP21 is expected to facilitate the early detection of potential issues. It is envisaged that extension of time requests will be dealt with earlier and in a more collaborative manner, and that greater all-round transparency in relation to the programme will lead to fewer disputes between the parties. Whilst the advantages of the PP21 for employers are clear to see, how it will be received by contractors is more uncertain. Although the PP21 will require contractors to change the way in which they operate in order to comply with new obligations, the benefit of having a high-quality programme that is regularly reviewed and properly updated will surely be welcomed.

As outlined in this article, the PP21 has the potential to benefit the construction sector, and it will be interesting to see the extent to which it is adopted throughout the industry. At a time when many businesses need to prioritise their recovery from COVID-19, this new guidance may help to provide the supporting documentation necessary to resolve disputes occurring between employers and contractors. Ultimately, if the PP21 is adopted on future projects, the benefits to those projects may well depend on the tools and resources available to employers to ensure compliance by their contractors with the requirements of the PP21.