Construction Change Orders & Construction Claims


By: J. Norman Stark, Attorney, Architect Emeritus, A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B.

Changes in construction are a common occurrence on most projects. Change orders may also generate claims for delays, loss of productivity, increased time, and other costs and claims, by owners, contractors and (even) subcontractors! Competing interests between owners and contractors may also give rise to controversy because claims and changes are almost inevitable on construction projects.

The problems amplify because parties may frequently disagree on their individual views of claims. These conflicting interests of scheduling, budget constraints, and the urgency of day-to-day issues that must be addressed by owners and project managers, seem to encourage adversarial, rather than mutually beneficial, relationships of each of the contracting parties.

Informed construction management, by owners and contractors alike, should be prepared to apply reasonable, essential skills and experience in anticipating and avoiding delays, and resolving costly claims, and needless legal challenges to the mutually successful, on-time completion of every construction project. Some basics are suggested:

  • Understand the intricacies of contract interpretation, differing site conditions and impacts on unchanged work — review FAR, AIA, EJCDC and ConsensusDoc clauses.
  • Contemplate and appreciate the causes of delay, disruption and impact, including what is and is not compensable under the law.
  • Consider the distinction between mitigation and compensable acceleration, especially where mitigation of delays is essential.
  • Uncover the underlying causes of lost productivity; detail entitlement, and accounting.
  • Implement proper accounting practices for pricing claims.
  • Evaluate claims presentation and defense techniques; agree to moderate negotiation practices.
  • Apply alternate dispute resolutions for stalled or rejected agreements; i.e. arbitration or mediation.
  • Identify the consequences of contract termination, bonds, liens and insurance and the application of each in claims.
  • Understand the differing claims and change order processes applicable to Design-Build, GMP, IPD and in a typical “Design-Bid-Build” program.

When construction claims can arise out of changes in the work, an experienced construction lawyer can assist in the appropriate early avoidance and resolution.


“Where Experience Counts, Count on my Experience”

J. Norman Stark, Attorney*

Architect Emeritus (Ohio) A.I.A., N.C.A.R.B.

1109 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115

(216) 531-5310 x7100 Cell.:(216) 310-7100 Email:

*Author: The Construction Claims Investigation Worklist®