I have my Google reader set to search various blogs, news sites, and Twitter feeds to help me keep current with the latest trends in the construction industry. There remains one major problem: the words we use have different meanings for everyone.
Take, for example, my search of Twitter feeds (above) for Building Information Modeling (BIM). If you were to do the same search during a weekday morning, the majority of results would return various individuals involved in some aspect of the construction industry either praising or criticizing BIM. Now, if you were to do the same search on any given Friday or Saturday night, you might be surprised to get a varied assortment of results (and photographs) of individuals out for a night of partying. You see, BIM is also slang for "bimbo" or … how do I say this … a "lady with questionable morals"?
What’s the lesson here? Did you click on this article because you thought it related to LEED or Green Buildings? It kinda does. It kinda doesn’t. The lesson is that we live and work in a world where information spreads quickly. In addition, we have become informal in our communications through the use of email, texting and Twitter. (And in our personal lives, there may not be anything wrong with informality in our communications.)
However, the construction project is built on expectations and performance. Where those expectations are accurately and correctly reduced to a writing, the parties have a written contract. Where the parties use words that have different meanings (and both interpretations are reasonable), we now have an ambiguity. A judge or arbitrator will then be asked to interpret that ambiguity based upon any number of legal tools (i.e., parties’ words and conduct, other writings outside the four cornings of the contract, industry norms, etc.). As the construction industry begins to employ new technologies, such as BIM, or new performance based goals, such as energy performance from a LEED certified building, then it becomes even more important that we use words that do not lead to miscommunication.
Question: What are some examples of contract ambiguity you have experienced or seen?