Dispute Boards, system to mediate conflicts in the development of construction projects

Dispute Boards (DB), also known as technical papers or conflict resolution tables, is an alternative and anticipated system of conflict resolution in the development of construction projects, whereby an independent panel of experts, normally Starting the execution of the contract, helps the parties resolve their disagreements through assistance and issuing recommendations or decisions, depending on the model adopted. Its purpose is to try to resolve quickly and in the moment the conflicts that arise during the execution of construction projects, thus lowering costs and shortening execution times, which often rise due to disputes between the parties.

The DBs are very efficient since it is a mechanism of rapid resolution of disputes that develops in a phase in which the conflict has not escalated nor has been affected by new factors. The satisfaction of the parties with the determinations or suggestions of the DB are greater than those obtained by other means: arbitration or judicial, since the DB is composed of impartial professionals with technical knowledge who, in addition, have monitored the contract from its start.

How do they work?

DBs should offer assistance to the parties, which is their most valuable asset. Its work is based on a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the project through access to all contractual documentation, follow-up reports, meetings with all parties and periodic site visits. In this way, members of the DB can anticipate the emergence of differences, cutting them off or mitigating them, and encouraging the parties to collaborate in overcoming such differences and their adverse impacts.

In addition, either party may require the assistance of the DB when it deems convenient. Depending on whether you have opted for a Dispute Review Board (DRB) or a Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB), that determination may be a non-binding recommendation or a binding decision.

The DBs have been successfully used in the project such as the Panama Canal, the Channel Tunnel, the Eurasia Tunnel, the Götthard Tunnel in Switzerland, the Boston Central Artery or the Heathrow, Hong Kong, Miami and Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood.


  • DBs are involved in the project from its inception to its completion so they have knowledge of all relevant aspects of the project.
  • The members of the DB know the goals and objectives of the project, its evolution and its problems being able to act quickly when they are required, being to avoid or mediate in a dispute.
  • Confidentiality. As much of the conflicts as of their treatment and the decisions that are adopted.
  • Experience. DB members are chosen for their knowledge and experience
  • Flexibility. The parties may agree on modifications to the dispute resolution procedure through the DB during the course of the project.
  • Prevention. The existence of DBs usually prevents the possible escalation of conflict between the parties
  • Relations. This method helps to preserve the relationships between the parties since there is an early and consensual resolution of many of the controversies.
  • Compression. Given the functioning of the DBs: appointment at the beginning of the project, holding regular visits, continuous monitoring and relations with the members of both parties; When a conflict arises the DB is in a better position to resolve the disputes than a court, which will intervene long after it arises.

According to statistics, in projects where the DB is implemented, most conflicts are resolved during project development and only a small percentage is resolved through arbitration or judgment.


  • It must be taken into account that the efficiency in the handling of disputes in construction contracts stresses the importance of avoiding conflict or at least solving it in the shortest possible time and at the lowest possible cost
  • DBs create a fast, reliable, low-cost (versus other types of solutions) dispute resolution scope, which is very important for contractors.
  • The possibility of providing expert assistance in a timely manner, that is, before the differences crystallize and become rigid positions, and where the work is being developed, makes it unique as a method of dispute settlement, avoiding Many problems among project participants.
  • DBs act as a brake on intransigent positions because they help the parties act in a professional and reasoned way in the resolution of problems that may arise.
  • The differences and their similarities with the arbitration mean that both mechanisms complement each other in response to the requirements required by the construction sector.