The Merry Month: by Robert Merry

Robert Merry is an independent stone consultant and expert witness in disputes. He ran his own company for 17 years before becoming first an independent project manager and now a consultant.

DCW 2019. Register online at and it is free, although you can pay for a package of extras. Turn up without registering and it is £20 to get in. It is at ExCeL London (where the Natural Stone Show is held) on 16-17 October. 

Following on from my article on BIM (building information modelling) last month, it just so happens that the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) dropped me another digital message about the DCW conference and exhibition.


Oh come on, keep up. Digital Construction Week, of course. Doh! Acronyms are the BIM of our lives.

It’s a date for your busy diary. Another Londoncentric show, I’m afraid, but it might be worth a visit.

It features 200 exhibitors for all things digital and 120 hours of seminars in the Thought Leadership Conference – the content of which sounds much better than the title. 

The Onsite Arena will have demonstrations of robotic innovations (such as robotic arms and the like) and there is Drone Drag Racing, where you might win a trophy. Please don’t practice your Drone skills anywhere near City Airport, though. Thanks.

A Construction Innovation Hub sounds particularly interesting. Advertised are live presentations of digitally enabled design, manufacturing, construction and ‘whole life performance’ (that’s for machines; not people). I’m not sure it would be worth me going if it were for people. My batteries don’t hold the same amount of charge as they used to. I need a comfy chair for half an hour after lunch these days. 

But I think the conference looks as if it might be where we need to be as an industry, reviewing the next steps in construction, seeing what we can take away to improve quality and profitability in our sector.

I have lately returned from a tribunal case, which I am not at liberty to discuss in detail. However, it’s worth noting that the case probably hinges on the identification of the stone and whether or not the stone contractor delivered what they were supposed to or something of lesser quality that was ultimately rejected by the client. 

There are various side issues about the mechanism used for the rejection of the stone and the timing of that rejection.

What interests me – in direct contrast to the DCW discussed above – is that despite the best efforts of the contract as written, with the use of range samples, quarry identification and so on, ultimately the case boils down to the visual appearance of the material. 

On the face of it that should be pretty simple to verify – take the range samples to site and compare them with the installed stone. 

Except the range samples don’t appear to be available. 

I guess my point is that despite photographs, detailed drawings, reports, inspections and every other digital recording devise available, when it comes to a dispute about the colour of a stone, the only way really to settle the issue is to physically stand in front of the selected stone with the approved range of samples. Old School. No need for DCW.

Perhaps that will always set us stone people apart from the rest of construction. You can’t digitalise stone. Can you?

Now, has anyone got a comfy chair? Me batteries need a bit of recharge.