Dispute Review Boards, or DRBs, are used by public agencies and private owners involved with major construction projects worldwide to resolve disputes in a timely way during the project, avoiding costly arbitration or litigation after completion.

Given their limited use in Canada, though, many people are not familiar with the cost, benefits and effective use of these boards.

The DRB process is governed by a contract and is generally informal, especially compared to arbitration and litigation. In the DRB process independent experts review evidence in accordance with the process established by the contract, and then provide their recommendation or decision. Accordingly, the contract must address things such as the qualifications, experience and roles and responsibilities of board members, as well as whether their decisions are for guidance only or are binding.

A separate retainer agreement with the DRB addresses matters such as the retainer itself, and the responsibilities, replacement, immunity, compensation and termination of board members. Examples are available from several sources, but care must be taken to ensure these are appropriate for, or are modified to properly account for, the particular project and parties involved.

You can learn more about this effective approach for resolving disputes and whether it may be suitable for your project at the Dispute Review Board Foundation’s Western Canada Regional Conference on October 26 at Vancouver’s Four Seasons Hotel. A separate DRB workshop will be held the following day. Topics will include:

  • Differences between DRBs and other forms of dispute resolution (e.g. mediation and arbitration);>
  • Advantages and disadvantages of DRBs for different types of projects;
  • Drafting workable DRB provisions; and
  • Perspectives on what has and has not worked, lessons learned, and best practices.