The BDA Champions Effective Ground Investigation Procurement at GE Roundtable

January 26, 2024

The British Drilling Association (BDA) played a pivotal role in a recent Ground Engineering (GE) round table discussion, which focused on ground investigation (GI) procurement. Hosted by Nia Kajastie, Editor of GE magazine, the discussion brought together industry experts to address the longstanding challenges and seek solutions to enhance the procurement process in the UK ground engineering industry.

The BDA’s involvement stemmed from a growing concern highlighted in surveys by the Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists (AGS) and BDA in 2017 and 2019. These surveys underscored the need for more prescriptive formal GI specifications and improved bills of quantities (BoQ) to streamline procurement.

The BDA’s Vice Chair, Mark Toye, shared insights into the varied contract mechanisms encountered, stressing the need for clarity and consistency in documentation to avoid confusion about roles and responsibilities. He noted the common occurrence of detailed briefs requiring interpretation into a bill, often leading to discrepancies between the bill and the specification.

Martyn Brocklesby, the Major Projects Director for Geotechnical Engineering, remarked on the company’s exposure to various contract mechanisms as a contractor. He noted that they sometimes engage in appointments based on their own terms and conditions, which are tailored to suit their Ground Investigation (GI) approach. Martyn pointed out that the quality of different enquiry documents often varies and may include inconsistencies. This includes aspects such as specifications (ICC), Bills of Quantities (BoQ), for both ICC and NEC contracts, project scopes (NEC), site information (NEC), and pre-construction information (CDM). He emphasized the importance of eliminating any contradictions to ensure clarity in understanding roles and responsibilities.

Paul McMann, BDA Chair, emphasised the diminished human element in current digital tender portals. He highlighted the challenges in innovation and value addition due to limited engagement opportunities through these platforms. Paul also pointed out the constraints placed on contractors in understanding and meeting client specifications through digital processes.

Gordon Ross, BDA Management Committee and Technical & Standards Sub-committee member, raised concerns about the practice of providing contract documentation post-commencement of work on site. He also pointed out the inefficiencies and limited interaction opportunities inherent in online tender portals.

The BDA representatives consistently advocated for improved contract mechanisms, better understanding of GI processes, and the benefits of early contractor involvement (ECI). They stressed the need for better education among clients and procurers regarding the GI industry, emphasising the value of informed client participation.

One of the key outcomes from the roundtable was the need for more effective communication between clients, consultants, and contractors. This approach, as suggested by the BDA representatives, would lead to more equitable GI contracts, providing valuable data to clients, while respecting the capabilities and needs of contractors.

In summary, the BDA’s contributions to the roundtable were instrumental in highlighting the industry’s current procurement challenges and suggesting actionable improvements. The Association’s commitment to driving industry standards and professionalism was evident, reinforcing its role as a key influencer in the ground engineering sector.

To read Ground Engineering magazine’s article that followed the discussion, please visit:

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