Is there a difference between a “lifetime of 20 years” and a “design life of 20 years”? The Technology & Construction Court said “no” (sort of) but the Court of Appeal said “yes”. Does the difference matter? Over £19 million of damages was hanging on this question, so yes, it was rather important.
The case involved the construction of an offshore wind farm, which suffered serious failures shortly after construction. The contract documents were lengthy and in parts highly technical. They were also inconsistent with each other, which does happen sometimes. The Employer’s Requirements included the Technical Requirements (TR), which stated that “the works elements shall be designed for a minimum site specific “design life” of 20 years without major retrofits or refurbishments”. But the TR also stated “the design of the foundations shall ensure a lifetime of 20 years in every aspect without planned replacement”. The contract required that the design of the works and the works themselves “shall satisfy any performance specifications or requirements of the Employer as set out in this Agreement”.