Construction contracts make detailed provision for the employer to extend the time for completion of the work. The need to extend the construction period arises from either (a) events external to the contract or (b) because changes in design or the construction method are required. These may arise as a consequence of extra work needed to accommodate changes made or required on behalf of the employer. For such a provision to be effective it must permit a variation of the work itself rather than the contract, since the basic rule at common law is that one party cannot unilaterally vary a contract. As Akenhead J observed in Supablast (Nationwide) Ltd v. Story Rail Ltd  BLR 211 at para 29: ‘One must bear in mind that variations, that is additional, altered, substituted or omitted works, are very common and almost invariably feature in payment disputes between construction contract parties…’ The effect on the contract of external events depends on whether the parties have made provision for them. Thus events (called ‘excepted risks’ or ‘specified perils’) such as fire, strikes, shortages, riot, invasion, rebellion, terrorism and war are dealt with expressly in the standard forms of contract. See clause 22(2) of ICE 7th (ICC) and JCT 11 clauses 1.1 and 6.8. There is also a category called force majeure (e.g., see clause 2.29.13 of JCT 11) but its meaning in English law is unclear. Keating (Furst and Ramsey, 2012, p. 893) considers the words to have a restricted meaning because matters such as war, strikes, fire and bad weather are dealt with elsewhere in the standard forms.
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