Provisions concerning form and quality control in the construction industry in the Netherlands (1350-1650)

The paper studies how building principals in the Netherlands operated to get the best quality in form and construction when they commissioned a building to a contractor. In the Netherlands, building contracts have been used since the late fourteenth century and in many of them the quality of materials and constructions are being prescribed. Municipal regulations and guild regulations were important to ensure quality in construction but despite these general provisions and statutory controls, building principals usually inserted extensive passages in contracts relating to the quality of wood, stone, brick and other materials.

Based on the investigation of circa 250 builder’s specifications and contracts dating before 1650, the paper shows how the development of quality descriptions for brick, stone, wood and other products differ in time. For carpentry and stone, quality specifications are known from the end of the fifteenth century. Quality requirements for brick masonry date from the sixteenth century; for other materials they only appear at the end of the sixteenth century. To exclude further surprises as much as possible, we find provisions on force majeure and unforeseen circumstances. These provisions could, among others, relate to ambiguity in the wording of the contract and in sickness or death of the contractor. However, this did not prevent disputes which, on some building projects, lasted for decades.

Source: van Tussenbroek., G. 2017. Heritage Department of the Municipality of Amsterdam/University of Amsterdam

Afbeelding credits

Icon afbeelding: Pxfuel - bricks and wood