ASSOCIATIONS Putlitz says today’s principal agent’s role is complex and a far cry from the ‘employer’s agent’ of old. “Building contracts traditionally included an employer’s agent to administer the execution of the works by the contractor and subcontractors. This agent was usually the consulting engineer or architect who designed the works. However, in recent years the execution function has been separated from the design function by the emergence of a ‘principal consultant’ to coordinate the numerous disciplines involved in modern buildings, and the ‘principal agent’ (or ‘contract administrator’ in some standard form contracts) to administer and manage the construction phase. In some standard form contracts, this A typical building site. Uwe Putlitz, CEO of the Joint Building Contracts Committee. person is referred to as the ‘project manager’ whose duties may be limited to the execution phase or include the pre- and post- construction phases.” In an English court case (Scheldebouw BV versus St James Homes), it was held that the principal agent has, in the first place, an agency function to execute instructions from the employer and, secondly, a decision-making function when the employer and contractor may have opposing interests. “The execution of any building project requires team work, good communication and competent administration apart from the construction skills. Should any dispute arise, and the project records are not incomplete or not easily accessible, it will be more difficult, time consuming and expensive to resolve such issues,” Putlitz adds.