In Memoriam: Dr Martin Barnes, the NEC originator.

Dr Martin Barnes

We are saddened by the news that Dr Martin Barnes, CBE has passed away. Dr Martin Barnes designed and drafted the original NEC (New Engineering Contract) in 1991. The 1st edition was published in 1993 followed by the 2nd edition in 1995. He was also actively involved in the development and launch of NEC3 in 2005.


Dr Martin Barnes was the leading creator of the original Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement (CESMM) which was published in 1976. The practice of preparing and using bills of quantities on civil engineering projects was modified by CESMM. Its approach was duplicated extensively and shaped quantity surveying practice in many sectors beyond civil engineering. Both as a member of the CESMM Review Panel and as leader of the drafting team Dr Barnes remained closely involved in the development of CESMM over subsequent editions. The widespread usage of CESMM over a 45-year period is testament to the value and magnitude of his contribution in this area.


In September 1985, due to their adversarial approach, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) asked its Legal Affairs Committee to review contract forms used at that time. The development of a new suite of contracts was recommended by the committee. The first step was to draft key principles of the contract and its functions. This work was done under the guidance of Dr Martin Barnes, a fellow member of the ICE and founder and chairman of the UK’s Association of Project Management.

Dr Martin Barnes had a civil engineering degree from the University of London and a PhD from the University of Manchester, UK. His doctorate was awarded in 1971 for research into improved methods of financial control for engineering projects. The classic Time/Cost/Quality triangle was created by Martin Barnes. Other project management techniques were too over the years.

“Martin’s contribution to industry and NEC has been immense and he leaves behind a legacy that has and will continue to change the way contracts are procured.  Martin’s vision for NEC as a contract that combines project management, contracting and procurement in one best practice process was ahead of its time. Martin will be remembered as the ‘creator and father of NEC’. He is an irreplaceable loss to many who knew him and worked with him.” – Rekha Thawrani, Global Head of NEC


“I was introduced to Martin in the late 1980s when he was developing the NEC concept and was invited to join the then Working Group with the introduction of the Consultative Edition in 1991.

NEC was introduced into South Africa in 1993 and we were able to invite Martin as guest speaker for conferences and interactions with NEC users over many years since then. Venues were always full. He often brought his wife, Dr Diana Barnes, with him and they both enjoyed visiting friends and touring South Africa whenever the opportunity arose.

Martin was an inspiration to me, gave me a career with NEC and his sense of humour was uniquely British.  I shall long remember getting a ticking off over dinner at his home, Cornbrash House in Oxfordshire, England, for daring to propose a shorter version of NEC for use in smaller projects.  

He was an icon to many and leaves a legacy in the form of a better style of project and contract management that can easily be extended into life in general.

I know I speak for many people in South Africa in extending our sincere condolences to his family over his passing.”