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Dictionary simply defines complexity as having a large number of interacting parts. Construction projects are often referred to as being complex; however there seems to be no universally accepted definition of the term project complexity in the construction industry. As part of a global research project aimed at establishing the impact of project complexity on project risks at the pre-construction stage, research has been undertaken to establish the current understanding of the term complexity in relation to construction projects in order to produce a clearer definition of the term project complexity for the construction industry. The application of complexity science to the construction industry is not widely researched, however, evidence has been found that the process of construction can in itself be thought of as a complex system. Literature search in the fields of systems thinking and complexity science have been carried out. Structured interviews with practitioners were conducted to confirm and build upon the findings of the literature review to gain an insight into what makes a construction project complex. The findings seem to suggest that the definition of project complexity involve a number of factors beyond simply having a large number of interacting parts. The research reported in this paper therefore provides a greater understanding of the science of complexity in construction and identifies what is understood by the term complexity in the construction industry context. The results seem to suggest that the definition of a complex project should refer to the interaction, interdependencies and interrelationships between parts of a project and that the greatest deal of complexity lies within the organisational aspects of a project.
Project complexity in construction
Project Complexity in Construction
Hannah Wood
School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, Brighton, BN2 4GJ, UK
Kassim Gidado
School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton, Brighton, BN2 4GJ, UK
Dictionary simply defines complexity as having a large number of interacting parts.
Construction projects are often referred to as being complex; however there seems to be no
universally accepted definition of the term project complexity in the construction industry. As
part of a global research project aimed at establishing the impact of project complexity on
project risks at the pre-construction stage, research has been undertaken to establish the current
understanding of the term complexity in relation to construction projects in order to produce a
clearer definition of the term project complexity for the construction industry. The application
of complexity science to the construction industry is not widely researched, however, evidence
has been found that the process of construction can in itself be thought of as a complex system.
Literature search in the fields of systems thinking and complexity science have been carried
out. Structured interviews with practitioners were conducted to confirm and build upon the
findings of the literature review to gain an insight into what makes a construction project
complex. The findings seem to suggest that the definition of project complexity involve a
number of factors beyond simply having a large number of interacting parts. The research
reported in this paper therefore provides a greater understanding of the science of complexity
in construction and identifies what is understood by the term complexity in the construction
industry context. The results seem to suggest that the definition of a complex project should
refer to the interaction, interdependencies and interrelationships between parts of a project and
that the greatest deal of complexity lies within the organisational aspects of a project.
Keywords: system, systems thinking, complexity science, project complexity.
1. Introduction
Complexity is a wide ranging topic which can relate to any subject and therefore there is a wealth of
information pertaining to it, however, there is still little published literature in the area of complexity
in construction industry. The concept of complexity science is still relatively recent in academia and
holds much scope for modern problems that perhaps a more traditional scientific view has struggled
with. With this in mind, exploring the science of complexity and investigating how it can be applied
in industries other than construction could hold many insights into how the construction process could
be improved.
Project success in terms of cost and time over runs, quality and even health and safety is historically
poor in the construction industry. It is a commonly held opinion that the reason for the poor
performance is the design and construction processes being particularly complex. Being able to
measure the complexity at an early stage in a project will lead to better understanding of the project
Project complexity in construction
and therefore could be of great benefit in successfully managing projects and reducing the risks
associated with complexity.
2. Complexity science
In essence complexity science is a new approach to science, which studies how relationships between
parts give rise to the collective behaviours of a system and how the system interacts and forms
relationships with its environment. Complexity science represents a growing body of interdisciplinary
knowledge about the structure, behaviour and dynamics of change in a specific category of complex
systems known as complex adaptive systems open evolutionary systems in which the components
are strongly interrelated, self organising and dynamic. Rain forests, businesses, societies, our immune
systems, the World Wide Web, and the rapidly globalizing world economy can be thought of as
complex adaptive systems. Each of these systems evolves in relationship to the larger environment in
which it operates (Sanders, 2003). The interplays between order and disorder, predictability and
unpredictability, regularity and chaos, are characteristics of complex systems. Complex systems
abound in the real world, and they reflect the world’s inherent irregularity. The real world is a world
of complexity, of messiness, of change, flow and process and cannot be pinned down to the simple,
solid, unchanging objects people like to cut out of it (Merry, 1995).
There are a number of definitions in the literature describing complexity science and complex systems.
Dent (1999) suggests that “complexity science is an approach to research, study and perspective that
makes the philosophical assumptions of the emerging worldview (EWV)”. Merry (1995) describes
complex systems as those that self organise themselves into states of greater complexity. An overview
of the Santa Fe Institute provided by Merry (1995) says that complex behaviours may emerge from a
number of the basic rules controlling parts of the system. That behaviour is not predictable from
knowledge of the individual elements, no matter how much we know about them, but it can be
discovered by studying how these elements interact and how the system adapts and changes
throughout time. What looks chaotic at first may be predictable from an understanding of the patterns
and rules of complex behaviour. Richardson et al (2000) state that a complex (adaptive) system can
simply be described as a system comprised of a large number of entities that display a high level of
interactivity. The nature of this interactivity is mostly non linear. Stacey (2001) summarises the
structure of a complex adaptive system as follows: The system comprises large numbers of individual
agents; These agents interact with each other according to rules that organise the interaction between
them at a local level. In other words, an agent is a set of rules that determines how that agent will
interact with a number of others and this interaction is “local” in the sense that there is no system wide
set of rules determining the interaction. The only rules are the rules located at the level of the agent
itself. Agents endlessly repeat their interaction referring back to their rules, that is, interaction is
iterative, recursive and self-referential. Agentsrules of interaction are such that the agents adapt to
Project complexity in construction
each other. The interaction is nonlinear and this nonlinearity is expressed in the variety of rules across
the large numbers of agents. Ongoing variety in the rules is generated by random mutation and cross
over replication. Complex systems cannot exist in isolation. By their very nature they are tied to and
connected to other systems, thus creating a dense web of connections between complex systems
throughout the world. As Merry (1995) said, affecting one system has repercussions in countless other
Complexity science has emerged from the field of possible candidates as a prime contender for the top
spot in the next era of management science. Richardson et al (2000) suggests that the general message
from the popular complexity science literature seems to be that, where we once focussed on the parts
of a system and how they functioned, we must now focus on the interaction between these parts, and
how these relationships determine the identity not only of the parts, but of the whole system.
Classical science, as practiced in the twentieth century, for the most part makes the philosophical
assumptions that are labelled as the traditional world view (TWV), which include underlying
assumptions of reductionism, objective observation, linear causation, entity as unit of analysis and
others (Dent, 1999). This TWV which has allowed people to make significant achievements in many
fields is no longer serving as a reliable guide. The rise of complexity science has paralleled an
increase in dissatisfaction with the TWV. In essence, Dent (1999) is suggesting that a new way of
thinking is needed to solve modern issues. Complexity is a new science precisely because it has
developed new methods for studying regularities and not because it is a new approach for studying the
complexity of the world. Science has always been about reducing the complexity of the world to
(predictable) regularities. Consequently, rather than define complexity science by what is studied (i.e.
a complex universe); the focus should be on the methods used to search for regularities (Phelan, 2001).
Complexity science introduces a new way to study regularities that differs from traditional science.
3. Complexity in construction
Complexity can be difficult to define as it has a number of different connotations. The Collins English
Dictionary (2006) defines complexity as “the state or quality of being intricate or complex”, where
complex is defined as “made up of many interconnecting parts”. It should be noted that the word
complex is sometimes used where complicated is meant. Complex should be used to say only that
something consists of several parts rather than it is difficult to understand, analyse or deal with, which
is what complicated inherently means.
Complexity is a term often used when discussing construction projects. In general construction
projects are all made up of many interconnecting parts so in that aspect fit the dictionary definition of
complexity well. However, complexity can be viewed as more than the simple definition we have so
far. It is a common statement that the construction process is one of the most complex and risky
Project complexity in construction
businesses undertaken, Baccarini (1996) states that the construction process may be considered the
most complex undertaking in any industry, however the construction industry has developed great
difficulty in coping with the increasing complexity of major construction projects. Therefore an
understanding of project complexity and how it might be managed is of significant importance. This is
supported by Mills (2001) who describes the construction industry as one of the most dynamic, risky
and challenging businesses and goes on to say however that the industry has a very poor reputation for
managing risk, with many major projects failing to meet deadlines and cost targets. Mulholland and
Christian (1999) support this further, adding construction projects are initiated in complex and
dynamic environments resulting in circumstances of high uncertainty and risk, which are compounded
by demanding time constraints.
Baccarini (1996) proposes a definition of project complexity as “consisting of many varied interrelated
parts and can be operationalised in terms of differentiation and interdependency.” Baccarrini explains
that this definition can be applied to any project dimension relevant to the project management
process, such as organisation, technology, environment, information, decision making and systems,
therefore when referring to project complexity it is important to state clearly the type of complexity
being dealt with.
Gidado (1996) presents the results of a number of interviews to gauge what experts in the building
industry consider project complexity to be, they see a complex project as the following:
That having a large number of different systems that need to be put together and/or that with a
large number of interfaces between elements;
When a project involves construction work on a confined site with access difficulty and
requiring many trades to work in close proximity and at the same time;
That with a great deal of intricacy which is difficult to specify clearly how to achieve a desired
goal or how long it would take;
That which requires a lot of details about how it should be executed;
That which requires efficient coordinating, control and monitoring from start to finish;
That which requires a logical link because a complex project usually encounters a series of
revisions during construction and without interrelationships between activities it becomes very
difficult to successfully update the programme in the most efficient manner.
From these results Gidado (1996) suggests that there seem to be two perspectives of project
complexity in the industry: (1) The managerial perspective, which involves the planning of bringing
together numerous parts of work to form work flow and; (2) The operative and technological
Project complexity in construction
perspective, which involves the technical intricacies or difficulties of executing individual pieces of
work. This may originate from the resources used and the environment in which the work is carried
Gidado (1996) offers that project complexity is the measure of difficulty of executing a complex
production process, where a complex production process is regarded as that having a number of
complicated individual parts brought together in an intricate operational network to form a work flow
that is to be completed within a stipulated production time, cost and quality and to achieve a required
function without unnecessary conflict between the numerous parties involved in the process. Or it can
simply be defined as the measure of the difficulty of implementing a plan to achieve a number of
quantifiable objectives. From this, Gidado (1996) organises the sources of complexity factors that
affect the managerial objectives in construction into two categories: (1) Category A, this deals with the
components that are inherent in the operation of individual tasks and originate from the resources
employed or the environment and; (2) Category B, this deals with those that originate from bringing
different parts together to form a work flow. This distinction between sources of complexity that are
inherent in an activity and those which are brought about from the interaction between activities is an
important one to make. By identifying the complexity that exists due to the interaction of activities it
is possible to manage and control that complexity. Gidado (2004) also identified that project
complexity has six main components, each made up of a number of intersecting factors, these are:
Inherent complexity
Uncertainty; Number of technologies
Rigidity of sequence
Overlap of phases or concurrency
Organisational complexity
Baccarini (1996) highlights the importance of complexity to the project management process by
making the following statements:
Project complexity helps determine planning, co-ordination and control requirements;
Project complexity hinders the clear identification of goals and objectives of major projects;
Complexity is an important criterion in the selection of an appropriate project organisational
Project complexity influences the selection of project inputs, e.g. the expertise and experience
requirements of management personnel;
Project complexity in construction
Complexity is frequently used as criteria in the selection of a suitable project procurement
Complexity is frequently used as a criterion in the selection of a suitable project procurement
arrangement; and
Complexity affects the project objectives of time, cost and quality - broadly, the higher the
project complexity the greater the time and cost.
Bertelsen (2003) discusses construction as a complex system; he explains that the general view of the
construction process is that it is an ordered, linear phenomenon, which can be organised, planned and
managed top down. The frequent failures to complete construction projects on time and schedule give
rise to thinking that the process may not be as predictable as it may look. A closer examination
reveals that construction is indeed a nonlinear, complex and dynamic phenomenon, which often exists
on the edge of chaos. A firmly founded theory of project management should start with an
understanding of the nature of the project itself. Generally, project management understands the
project as an ordered and simple, and thus predictable phenomenon which can be divided in to
contracts, activities, work packages, assignments etc. to be executed more or less interdependently.
The project is also seen as a mainly sequential, assembly like, linear process which can be planned in
any degree of detail through an adequate effort, and the dynamics of the surrounding world is not
taken into account. Bertelsen (2003) states that the perception of the projects nature as ordered and
linear is a fundamental mistake and that project management must perceive the project as a complex,
dynamic phenomenon in a complex and non linear setting.
Bertelsen (2003) also suggests that the complexity aspect must be seen in at least three perspectives.
Firstly, the project itself is an assembly like process which is often more complicated, parallel and
dynamic, and thus more complex than traditional project management envisages. The mistake is the
assumption of the ordered view of the surrounding world. All supplies are believed to be made in
accordance with projects unreliable schedule, and all resources such as equipment and crew are
supposed to stand by, ready for the projects beck and call. Secondly, the construction industry is
highly fragmented and its firms cooperate in ever changing patterns, decided mainly by the lowest bids
for the project in question. They are also interwoven, as every firm at the same time participates in
more than one project, utilising the same production capacity. Almost all projects are divided into
parts that are subcontracted to individual enterprises, and these contracts are almost always made to
the lowest prices. Thus we have a production system consisting of individual operators, each trying
against odds to get a reasonable earning for their own business out of their lowest bid. This can only
be done through an optimal resource utilisation. But as they all work with the same resources on more
projects than the one in question, this ties our project firmly, but secretly, more or less to all other
projects that are being executed in our region, and maybe the whole country. Nobody knows where
Project complexity in construction
the ties are so tight that we get strong and unplanned influence from unforeseen events in other
projects. The construction sector, due to its contracting practice, forms an interwoven network of high
complexity and a great dynamic. Thirdly, the construction site is a working place for humans and a
place for cooperation and social interaction, which because of the temporary character, forms a highly
transient human system. This aspect is often hidden by the fact that staff at the production facility,
the construction site, are not hired and reimbursed by the place where they work. Their loyalty is
divided between their own firm and the job at hand, often with the firm as the one with the highest
priority. Traditional project management often overlooks this aspect and does not perceive the gangs
on the sites as their own employees in the virtual firm, which is formed by the project.
4. Methodology
The data collected has encompassed a mixture of both qualitative and quantitative data. This mixed
approach has been used to gain the most appropriate data to fulfil the aim of the research.
Questionnaires and semi structured interviews were designed based upon the information identified in
an in depth literature review. The questionnaires comprised a number of questions asking the
respondent to score each statement on a scale of one to ten. These statements relate to definitions and
components of complexity that have been identified throughout the literature. The questionnaires
were piloted on members of academic staff to ensure they were clear and concise. The semi structured
interviews were used to build upon the information from the questionnaires and further explore how
complexity is perceived in industry.
All the participants were selected via criterion sampling, criterion sampling is where all cases meet
some criterion which is useful for quality assurance (Miles and Huberman, 1994). The aim of
sampling the potential interviewees is to ensure that a realistically achievable amount of interviews
can be conducted whilst still representing the views of the wider community. This type of sampling
has also been used to obtain information that will be the most pertinent to the research. The criteria
for the selection of interviewees are as follows, they must:
have experience of ‘complex’ projects
work at a management (strategic) level in construction
work in the south east of England
have a construction related degree or equivalent qualification
10 years plus construction experience
experience in planning/risk issues
For the interviews at this stage of the research a constant comparison grounded theory approach was
selected. The term grounded theory means theory that was derived from data, systematically gathered
Project complexity in construction
and analysed through the research process (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). In this method, data collection,
analysis and eventually theory stand in close relationship to one another. Theory derived from data is
more likely to resemble the ‘reality’ than is theory derived by putting together a series of concepts
based on experiences or solely through speculation (how one thinks things ought to work). Grounded
theories, because they are drawn from data, are likely to offer insight, enhance understanding and
provide a meaningful guide to action. The data from the questionnaires was used to derive an
importance index and a severity index for each statement, allowing them to be ranked. From this a
clear definition of complexity in construction can be generated and the most important components
can be identified.
5. Results
These are preliminary results which are based upon the findings from the pilot study questionnaires
and interviews. These interviews took place with experts in the field to ensure that relevant data was
collected. Further interviews are to be carried out with a greater range of participants to expand the
results. To date, seven interviews have been conducted, the participants have included directors of a
large international project management consultancy, site based project managers and contracts
managers and design managers for a large international contractor. It is clear from the results that
project complexity is made up of a number of factors which makes project complexity a difficult entity
to define and quantify, however, from the results it is also clear that some factors are considered far
more important when defining project complexity therefore identifying what is considered to make a
construction project complex.
Definition statement
Projects with a high interdependency between the parts
Projects with a high degree of interaction between the parts
Projects that are continuously changing/evolving
Projects made up of many interconnecting parts
Projects that are surrounded by an intricate environmental envelope
Projects comprising of entities with a high level of interface
Projects that have a high degree of non linear interaction with their environment
Projects that have a high level of non linear interaction
Projects having a number of complicated individual parts
Projects involving a high degree of diverse tasks
Projects that have high interaction with their environment
Projects that have a high dependency on their environment
Difficulty of executing individual tasks that make up a process
Projects with a great deal of intricacy
Projects with a large number of parts
Table 1 Definition statement ranking
Project complexity in construction
Organisational complexity
Inherent complexity
Overlap of construction elements
Rigidity of sequence
Number of trades
Table 2 Main component ranking
Sub Component
Poor channels of communication
Poor generation and use of information
Lack of working drawings
High degree of overlap of design and construction
High degree of interrelationship between activities in the different overlapping parts
High interdependencies between the roles of various trades in a task
Technical core environmental layer (e.g. underwater construction, chemical)
High degree of overlap of construction phases
Role that has no known procedure
Technically complex role the requires special skill, knowledge and equipment
Environmental influence cultural/social/legal environmental layer
Lack of uniformity due to continuous change in material or other resource
Unpredictable sub-surface
Lack of experienced local workforce
Conducting or managing a role for the first time
Rigidity of sequence between the various packages within a phase
Rigidity of sequence between the various operations within a package
Unpredictable work in a defined new structure (e.g. as in new work added to old
buildings without record drawings)
Rigidity of sequence between the various tasks within an operation
Physically difficult role that requires the use of complex equipment
Lack of uniformity due to lack of working space and or access
Technically complex role that requires locally available special skills
Undefined structure or poor buildability assessment (e.g. refurbishment works of old
Technically complex role due to the sophistication of the equipment or method
The effect of weather or climatic conditions
Lack or uniformity due to mechanical or other resource breakdown
Physically difficult role that requires simple or no equipment
Table 3 Sub component ranking
Table 1 shows the ranking of the 15 definition statements from the questionnaire. Projects with a high
degree of interaction between the parts scored the highest, followed by projects that are continuously
changing/evolving and projects with a high interdependency between its various parts which scored
equally and then projects made up of many interconnecting parts. Apart from projects that are
continuously changing/evolving all the top scoring statements relate to the interaction and
interdependency of the parts in a project. This suggests that the industry perceives projects with a high
degree of interdependency, interaction and interrelationships between the parts as those projects which
will be complex. This is in line with the dictionary definition of the term complexity; however, it is
perhaps the components of project complexity which really identify what makes a project complex.
Project complexity in construction
Table 2 shows the ranking of the main six components of complexity. Organisational complexity
scored consistently highly in the questionnaires giving it the greatest importance index. Interestingly,
although in the definition statements projects with a high level of interaction between its parts scored
highly, in this section the number of trades scored the lowest, indicating that it is about the interaction
between the parts that is important in terms of complexity, not necessarily the number of parts that
makes up the project. Each of the main components is further broken down into a number of sub
components of project complexity. By identifying the main component that makes a project complex,
it is anticipated that the sub components scoring the highest would be those relating to organisational
complexity. This is indeed the case with poor channels of communication and poor generation and
use of information being identified as the top two of the 27 sub components that make a project the
most complex shown in Table 3. Also rated highly are those sub components which relate to the
interaction and interrelationship between parts in a project, this concurs with the high ranking of these
factors in the definition statements. The components which were rated the lowest were those that
related to the individual tasks in a project and the technical complexity involved.
An important concept to note is the fact that whilst alone many of these factors contribute to making a
project complex, it is in fact when a combination of these factors are encountered that the greatest
effect is experienced. Simply having a project that has a high degree of overlap between design and
construction can be complex but manageable, however when this is coupled with poor channels of
communication and high interdependencies between roles the project becomes much more complex.
In practice, it is unlikely that any large project will only encounter one of the factors which can make a
project complex and therefore understanding where the complexity comes from and the combinations
of the factors is of key importance to being able to properly manage and deal with the complexity in
any project.
In addition to the information gained from the questionnaires, a number of interesting issues were
identified as a result of the semi structured interviews which took place with industry experts. There is
a general consensus that although technical aspects of a project can greatly add to the complexity, it is
in fact the organisational aspects which contribute more to the complexity of the project. Whilst
technical complexity is a definite factor in project complexity, it was felt that this was much easier to
deal with than complex relationships and organisations. When rating the components from the
questionnaire, the factors concerning organisational complexity were rated consistently high. Poor
communication and poor use of information were seen as significant factor contributing to the
complexity of a project.
Part of the organisational complexity that was highlighted was to understand the stake holder’s
positions in the project, for example where there is a multi headed client, it was noted that this
situation could greatly add to the complexity of a project due to the different interests of different
Project complexity in construction
Another important factor relating to the complexity that was emphasised by the industry experts was
the need to have a clear and well defined project brief and to understand the client’s needs. Without
this understanding a project may become needlessly complex. It is vital that the client has a clear idea
of what they want and that their needs are clearly communicated to other parties involved in the
Also identified was the need to distinguish between managing projects and programmes which include
a number of projects as this has an obvious impact upon the complexity. A project that has a single
building or development for example an office development project can be affected by all of the
components identified earlier, however if this development is part of a much larger scheme including
residential developments, school buildings, leisure facilities and all of the infrastructure needed for
these, the complexity of the scheme as a whole becomes much greater as not only is each individual
project subject to all of the factors of complexity already identified, but the interaction between each
project must also be taken into account.
6. Conclusion
The aim of this paper has been to provide a greater understanding of the science of complexity and its
applications to construction and to identify what is understood by the term complexity in the
construction industry. This has been accomplished through means of an in depth literature review
investigating complexity science and complexity in construction and then followed by a number of
semi structured interviews and a questionnaire survey. The application of complexity science to the
construction industry is not widely researched, however, evidence has been found that the process of
construction can in itself be thought of as a complex system. It is argued that too often the
construction process is thought of as an ordered, linear, and thus predictable, phenomenon which can
be divided into contracts, activities and work packages which can be managed top down. This view of
construction may be leading to the poor success rates in terms of time, cost and quality which are often
experienced and a different perspective may improve this. The construction process should be
perceived as a complex, dynamic phenomenon in a complex and non linear setting.
The findings presented here are from the early stages in the research and therefore will be further built
upon via more widespread interviews with more industry experts. The results of the questionnaire and
interviews seem to suggest that the definition of a complex project should refer to the interaction,
interdependencies and interrelationships between parts of a project, which is similar to the dictionary
definition of complexity. However, when investigating what actually makes a project complex, the
organisational aspect of a project was seen to be the most important component. Findings support the
observation made by Gidado (1996) that complexity has two perspectives in the industry, firstly the
managerial perspective and secondly the operative and technological perspective. However a greater
Project complexity in construction
deal of emphasis has been placed on the managerial or organisational structure than on the operational
or technological perspective as these were felt to be simpler to.
Of key importance to the research was that the complexity in a project needs to be identified at the
earliest stage possible in order to be able to manage it appropriately. Whilst it wasn’t seen as
necessary to have a numerical measure of complexity, identifying where the complexity lies in a
project was identified as a critical factor to project success.
7. References
BACCARINI, D. (1996) The concept of project complexity - a review. International Journal of Construction
Management. 14, 201-204.
BERTELSEN, S. (2003) Complexity - construction in a new perspective. 11th Annual conference in the
international group for lean construction. Blacksburg, VA.
DENT, E. (1999) Complexity science: A worldwide shift. Emergence. 7, 5-19.
DICTIONARY (2006) Collins English dictionary and thesaurus. Glasgow: Harper Collins.
GIDADO, K. (1996) Project complexity: The focal point of construction production planning. Construction
Management and Economics. 14, 213-225.
GIDADO, K. (2004) Enhancing the prime contractors pre construction planning. Journal of Construction
Research. 5, 87-106.
MERRY, U. (1995) Coping with uncertainty - insights from the new sciences of chaos, self organisation and
complexity. Westport: Praeger publications.
MILES, M. B. & HUBERMAN, A. M. (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. London:
Sage Publications.
MILLS, A. (2001) A systematic approach to risk management for construction. Structural survey. 19, 254-252.
MULHOLLAND, B. & CHRISTIAN, J. (1999) Risk assessment in construction schedules. Journal of
Construction Management. JAN/FEB 99, 8-15.
PHELAN, S. (2001) What is complexity science, really? Emergence. 3, 120-136.
RICHARDSON, K., CILLIERS, P. & LISSACK, M. (2000) Complexity science: A grey science for the stuff in
between. 1st International conference on systems thinking in management. Deakins University, Australia.
SANDERS, T. I. (2003) What is complexity. Washington,
Washington Centre for Complexity & Public Policy.
STACEY, R. D. (2001) Complex responsive processes in organisations: Learning and knowledge creation.
London: Routledge.
Project complexity in construction
STRAUSS, A. & CORBIN, J. (1998) Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing
grounded theory. London: Sage Publications.
... Wood and Gidado [50] suggested that the definition of a complex project should refer to the interaction, interdependencies, and interrelationships between the parts of a project and that a great deal of complexity lies within the organizational aspects of a project. The dynamics of innovation are based upon a wide spectrum of possibilities within the system, including incremental innovation at one extreme and breakthrough innovation at the other. ...
... Wood and Gidado [50] tried to provide a greater understanding of the science of complexity in construction. Their research results suggested that the definition of a complex project should refer to the interaction, the interdependencies, and the interrelationships between parts of a project and that the largest amount of complexity lies within the organizational aspects of a project. ...
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The construction sector constitutes a significant indicator of a country’s economic growth. Construction equipment is an integral part of every construction project, and its contribution during construction determines any project’s completion. It also represents a significant capital investment for companies in this sector. A major strategic goal for such companies is the increase in the equipment’s productivity, which is affected mostly by its operators. The aim of this research is to recognize and prioritize the criteria affecting the performance of construction equipment operators. Scientometric analysis, using VOSViewer software, was implemented for the formation of different kinds of bibliometric networks, proposing a holistic approach to this research field. Those networks delineated the field with regard to construction equipment operators and revealed the correlations between the network’s items, which were formed because of previous research, and finally, conclusions were drawn. An extensive literature review in conjunction with structured interviews with experts and operators determined the factors affecting the operators’ performance, with a view to creating a hybrid decision model based on the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), as implemented by the Transparent Choice tool. Many experts evaluated the criteria affecting the operators’ performance, leading to remarkable conclusions. Moreover, a few pointers for future research are provided.
... As a determinant of the project, complexity significantly affects the project objectives related to time, costs, and quality. Based on the need to create a realistic plan for the execution of the project with indicators through which the successfulness of the project is monitored, Wood and Gidado [17] found that the degree of project complexity should be identified at the earliest stage of the project. ...
... Although complexity is a widespread term that can be associated with any subject, there is still a lack of published literature in the field of complexity in construction. Thus, construction projects are often described as complex, but there is no universally accepted definition of complexity in the construction industry [17]. When it comes to complexity, it is most often analyzed from the theoretical or abstract perspectives, while the practical applications of complexity theory are very small. ...
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Contractors are facing an increasing degree of complexity in their construction projects. Due to inadequately prepared project plans, they have been suffering significant losses during the execution of construction projects. One of the key disadvantages of such plans is that during the planning process, a construction project is mostly defined as a linear rather than a dynamic and complex process with a high degree of uncertainty. Therefore, a contractor who is in the planning phase of a construction project should consider the impact of the project characteristics on its implementation according to the elements of project complexity. In this research, we therefore first made an overview of the existing research related to the elements of project complexity. Based on the frequency of their occurrence in existing surveys, this paper singled out eight groups of complexity characteristics that contractors should be aware of during construction projects. After that, based on the frequency of occurrence in the existing surveys, fifteen elements of complexity were classified for each project complexity group. The research conducted among construction project managers identified key complexity elements of the construction project from the contractor’s perspective. Thereby, the classification of groups with the associated key elements determining the complexity of a construction project from the perspective of the contractor was performed. By properly analyzing the impact of key elements of complexity on project flow during the planning phase, contractors can be more successful when planning the project objectives to be performed.
... Project performance can be estimated and assessed utilizing countless execution markers that could be identified with different measurements gatherings, for example, time, cost, quality, customer fulfilment, customer changes, business execution, health and safety (Cheung et al., 2004). In addition, an undertaking accomplishment as far as cost, time overrun, quality, performance, and safety is truly poor in the construction industry because of the plan and construction process being especially complex (Wood & Gidado, 2008). The viability of performance estimation is an issue of developing significance to industrialists and scholastics the same. ...
... In general, construction projects including road infrastructure projects are totally comprised of many interconnecting parts which fit well with the meaning of complexity. Nevertheless, previous studies on complexity in construction projects are constrained, with most studies concentrating just on the conceptual factors that contribute to complexity in the construction industry (Baccarini, 1996;Williams, 1999;Sinha et al., 2006;Brockmann & Girmscheid, 2007;Wood & Gidado, 2008;Pitsis et al., 2004). The literature reviews have shown existing or deficiency of understanding complexity factors with regards to infrastructure projects. ...
Poor project performance has been imperative to both private and public construction stakeholders to ensure organizational sustainability. Most previous studies generally focused on project delays, cost overruns, and lack of quality during the construction phase, but still lacking literature on infrastructure project performance during the post-construction phase. This chapter focuses on the identification of post-construction complexity factors for infrastructure projects impacting the three dimensions of project performance, namely time, cost, and quality. A questionnaire survey was administered to 106 construction professionals involved in infrastructure projects in Malaysia. A Rasch model was used to validate the instrument item and person in the questionnaires. A confirmatory factor analysis based on a structural equation modelling (SEM) using partial least square (SEM-PLS) revealed that the top three post-construction cost factors that have significantly impacted the project performance are inadequate warranty and maintenance manuals, insufficient documents certifying all sub-contractors bills after collecting all documents and attending snags, and insufficient documents to prepare completion certificate based on all documents. Thus, these findings have empirically contributed to integrating complexity assessment for infrastructure projects during the post-construction life cycle in line with the Twelfth Malaysia Plan for the construction industry.
... One of these that the system comprises large numbers of individual agents; these agents interact with each other according to rules that organize the interaction between them at a local level. (8) Other definition state that a complex (adaptive) system can simply be described as a system comprised of a large number of entities that display a high level of interactivity. The nature of this interactivity is mostly nonlinear. ...
... Complex systems are open systems. 8 Complex systems operate under conditions far from equilibrium. 9 ...
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At the first, this paper will review the complexity theory definitions and the nature of project as complex system with complexity system features, also describe the organizational complexity and management of project organization. The main purpose of this paper is to propose an organizational structure for managing multi construction projects depending on the method of projects execution (bidding method, and direct execution method) and then dividing the construction projects according to zone area of projects and sector of projects. This proposed organizational structure will allow interactions between team work and will help in control all the jobs properly. The interactions among projects team will help in information sharing for all problems in work and their solutions and dividing the projects according to zone area and project sector will simplify the process of project controlling and the general manager will get all necessary information about the projects at appropriate time. Finally, each level in the organizational structure proposed by the researcher has authority and responsibility to accomplish all jobs properly with optimal usage of human resources. Keywords: complexity theory, organizational complexity, project organization, complexity in project management. 1. Introduction One of the most important characteristics of today"s organizations is the use of projects as an approach in order to solve tasks and work assignments of different size and types. The countries and economies in the western world is moving towards a "projectified society" where project management is becoming a larger part of the organizations daily procedures and operations, rather than for special cases and situations where it has been used. This has increased the academically interest towards these temporary or long-term projects and how they are used in organizations. A single project within a business requires control and a clear view of project integration, scope, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk, and procurement. It has become more common in organizations and for project managers to handle several projects running at the same time, known as multi-project management.(1) An enterprise, if successful, has a tendency towards growth and development, it employs and trains qualitative staff, provides resources and develops the organizational structure. In general, the structure is focused on specialization of the group staff. If the organizational structure is unable to perform some task, the tendency of its rejection will appear. When such a situation becomes dangerous for the firm, the increasing pressure will be exerted on reorganization. (2) Complexity theory in the natural sciences has brought fresh insight into the nature and working of complex systems and some have hoped that applying this theory to social systems, albeit necessarily in an adapted form, could be equally revealing and useful.(3)
... Nature, extent, and quality of the programme information available ###-6 the sources while having the AACE relate the dispute complexity to the selection of the DAT. In five of the sources, project size is mentioned along with project complexity which contributes to the idea that complexity can be perceived as a factor with sub factors such as project size, project type, interdependency, and interaction between project parts, etc... (Wood and Gidado 2008). Perera (2016) related complexity to mechanical and electrical works difficulty. ...
The increasing complexity and magnitude of the projects impose greater impact of delays on stakeholders. Construction delays are a major source of disputes in construction projects. Since a construction project depends on interactions and shared responsibilities among parties, research works were directed towards identifying delay causes, quantifying their impacts, and proposing ways to deal with them. Different delay analysis techniques (DATs) applied to the same project’s delays provide different results, and thus, the selection of technique to use in evaluating delays becomes vital. Reviewing the literature, it has been realized that often there are disagreements, which lead to escalating a claim into a dispute, between engineers and contractors on the technique to be used to evaluate the delay. A dispute results in additional costs, time, and in some cases negatively impacts the relation between the parties as it goes up the ladder of dispute resolution. Some research was conducted to gather experts’ opinions on the best technique to be used; however, little research was done to quantify factors behind the selection and transform them into a numerical model. This research is an attempt to support different parties in selecting the most appropriate DAT to be used for a delay by building a model based on quantifying experts’ opinions to score different factors influencing the selection of DATs. Moreover, a survey based on the Egyptian market was conducted and used to build the model. Results of the survey were compared to surveys, from different countries, that tackle those different factors. This research helps in integrating the efforts that were exerted to tackle this challenge while providing analysis of how different factors are perceived through different law systems. Delay analysts, contract administrators, and other parties can use the model to validate their chosen DAT for a claim.KeywordsDelay analysis techniqueQuantitative approach
... Joint infrastructure and real estate projects, related to the requirements of multimodal mobility, require the use of digital planning, realization and facility management of the assets due to the increasing complexity and therefore risk (Baccarini, 1996;Berechman and Wu, 2006;Brockmann and Kähkönen, 2012;Gidado, 1996;Luo et al., 2017;Schalcher, 2010;Winchur, 2019;Wood and Gidado, 2008). This is accompanied by increased legal requirements with resulting compliance Fan et al., 2018;Jiang, Ma and Zhang, 2018;Mwelu et al., 2018;Rezgui, Beach and Rana, 2013). ...
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The research gap consists of unspecified data and requirements at the beginning of a construction project that a client has for the facility management (FM) phase of an asset to operate it efficiently and effectively. This with the aim to enable further applications based on Building Information Modelling (BIM). Building owners are dependent on accurate data for the FM. Yet, the data currently available due to digital methods are mostly not structured or do not focus on the FM but on the shorter construction phase. It is therefore only possible to provide additional services and applications to the user, FM and the public with an increased expenditure of resources. The Design Science Research approach is applied. The result is a generic, model-based, reusable and extensible conceptual framework to incorporate FM data based within the three-dimensional model-based design and construction of an asset to enable smart applications, which are introduced. The approach is exemplified by a use case of the reservation of a meet-ing room. The conceptual framework is composed of empirical data from expert interviews, questionnaires and factual analysis from 13 projects of different sizes. The findings were assessed by an international panel of experts. The conceptual framework shows which phases need which data, who needs them, and which added value can be generated if intelligent data structuring is used at the beginning of the construction project and bridges the gap between requirement and practice.
... As a result of this tragic event, experts claimed that the Sri Lankan construction industry has experienced a huge shock due to the slow economic growth in the country (Daily News 2019). Furthermore, the construction industry is considered a complex field due to the risk, dynamic environment, and challenges (Wood and Gidado 2008). In the Sri Lankan context, occupational health and safety have become a major concern since it is a neglected aspect in many construction sites. ...
The Sri Lankan construction industry has experienced rapid development in the post-war era due to new trends in the country. Currently, the construction industry in the country is experiencing difficulties due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the industry has been struggling due to issues that affect its productivity, such as lack of skilled labourers and low levels of health and safety in sites. In such a context this paper aims at identifying and evaluating the challenges posed by the pandemic. Seventy responses were obtained from officials in the top and middle levels of management in different construction companies in the country through an online survey. Challenges and solutions have been identified and analysed under four key areas namely, workforce management, health and safety, welfare facilities, and emergency preparedness. The findings of the study can aid construction professionals with shaping up construction projects beyond COVID-19. Accordingly, the industry needs several efforts in regard to legislative enactments, administrative support, education and training, and review and evaluation.
... In the history of the construction industry, complexity is the main reason for poor performance and project failure in terms of cost overrun, schedule delay, low quality and even safety issues [57,58]. ...
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The construction industry has been experiencing a rapid increase in complex projects for the last two decades. Simultaneously, project complexity has received more attention from academics and practitioners worldwide. Many studies suggest that perceiving complexity is critical for successful construction project management. This study investigates the current status and future trends in construction project complexity (CPC) literature from the Scopus database. This review systematically uses bibliometric and scientometric methods through co-occurrence and co-citation analysis. First, 644 academic documents were retrieved from the Scopus database. Then, co-occurrence and co-citation analysis were performed along with network visualization to examine research interconnections’ patterns. As a result, relevant keywords, productive authors, and important journals have been highlighted. The prominent research topics within the literature on construction project complexity focus on the following topics: identifying and measuring project complexity, schedule performance and cost estimation, system integration and dynamic capabilities, and risk assessment and uncertainty. Finally, the potential research directions are developing towards safety performance, organizational resilience, and integrated project delivery (IPD). The study still has a limitation. The review focuses only on the academic documents retrieved from the Scopus database, thus restricting the coverage of the reviewed literature relating to construction project complexity. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this study is the first study that provides a systematic review of the literature from the Scopus database on construction project complexity. View Full-Text
Procurement is the complete process of distributing responsibilities among stakeholders, organizations as well as all those contributing towards the clients’ satisfaction. The procurement method plays a major role in the construction industry. The application of the wrong procurement method could cause an unnecessary increment in the total cost for the client, disrupting outlined project schedules and creating undesirable situations for the client. Thus, selection of the most suitable procurement method is important for the success of any construction project. Selection of a procurement system usually takes long time due to consideration of numerous factors. However, analysing key procurement factors is helpful for clients who have limited time to finish the project. Hence, this research focuses on finding the most suitable procurement selection factors for private-sector commercial building projects in Sri Lanka. A comprehensive literature review was carried out to acquire the knowledge on existing procurement methods and procurement selection factors. Thereafter, the study incorporated expert interviews to identify, analyse, and validate the key procurement selection factors. Purposive sampling was selected as the sampling technique, and 13 experts were interviewed through online. The main four procurement systems were identified as traditional, integrated, management oriented, and collaborative procurement systems. Each procurement method has different characteristics which make them different from one another. The selection of a procurement method is different due to various procurement selection factors which vary from project to project. These factors include speed, cost, quality, risk allocation, responsibility, accountability, price certainty, and market competition for the project, regulatory environment, public accountability, culture, government policy, disputes and arbitration, availability of experience contractor, policy or objective of organization, technology, and many more. Within the context of Sri Lanka, speed, nature, scope, and complexity, price certainty, and risk and responsibility were revealed as the most important procurement selection factors. Moreover, these procurement selection factors were identified as key factors internationally.
The modern construction industry in Sri Lanka focuses on introducing environment friendly and long durable sustainable materials in constructions. Modern trend is producing different types of earth soil-based building blocks and innovating modified daub mixture-based structures. However, surface cracking and damage due to flood are the major issues that are faced in some soil-based structures. The use of cellulose fiber as a reinforcement material has many advantages such as providing adequate stiffness, strength, and bonding capacity to cement-based matrices for substantial enhancement of their flexural strength. The aim of present study was to find out the possibility of using Alkaline Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP)-pretreated cornhusk fibers as a reinforcement material to prepare soil and cement-based composite mixture for development of roofing sheets, ceiling sheets, and wall panels. The AHP pretreatment is an effective pretreatment that could be performed at room temperature and under atmospheric pressure for extracting cellulose from agro plant residue like cornhusks. Cornhusks is comparatively one of freely available agro plant residues in Sri Lanka and with required chemical composition, from which cellulose could be extracted easily from AHP pretreatment. The selected earth soil was laterite and has dark reddish color. The composite mixture was prepared by mixing of earth soil, cement, and AHP-pretreated cornhusks fibers in the weight ratios of 1:1:0.025 of, respectively, with a certain amount of water. Roofing sheets, ceiling sheets, and wall panels were prepared using the said composite mixture and were analyzed for morphological characteristics, water absorbency, flexural load, and durability. The developed composite samples have reddish to brownish color. The water absorbency, flexural load, and durability were of satisfactory level. These can be used in construction of low cost attractive and environment friendly architectural constructions especially in areas where tourists frequent in Sri Lanka.
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"complexity science in organizations" is that there is no commonly accepted definition of what this term means (White et al., 1997). Definitions have been offered, such as "complexity is a watchword for a new way of thinking about the collective behavior of many basic but interacting units... complexity is the study of the behavior of macroscopic collections of such units that are endowed with the potential to evolve in time" (Coveney and Highfield, 1995: 7). Although this definition is very descriptive, it still seems general and unfocused. The purpose of this article is to offer a simple definition for complexity science and to demonstrate the shift in worldview necessary for complexity science to become second nature to people as traditional science now is. Simply put, complexity science is an approach to research, study, and perspective that makes the philosophical assumptions of the emerging worldview (EWV), these include holism, perspectival observation, mutual causation, relationship as unit of analysis, and others; see Table 1.Classical science, as practiced in the twentieth century, for the most part makes the philosophical assumptions that will be labeled here the tradi-tional worldview (TWV), which include underlying assumptions of reductionism, objective observation, linear causation, entity as unit of analysis, and others. This TWV, which has allowed people to make significant achieve-ments in many fields, is no longer serving as a reliable guide. Several
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Systematic risk management is expecting the unexpected – it is a tool which helps control risks in construction projects. Its objective is to introduce a simple, practical method of identifying, assessing, monitoring and managing risk in an informed and structured way. It provides guidance for implementing a risk control strategy that is appropriate to control construction projects at all levels. This paper will review systematic management approaches to risk. It discusses the allocation of risk and suggests that risk needs to be identified and managed early in the procurement process. In addition, a case study of a small project that was affected by difficult economic circumstances is included to demonstrate the effectiveness of systematic risk management.
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Reference to the project dimension of complexity is widespread within project management literature. However the concept of project complexity has received little detailed attention. This paper reviews the literature on project complexity relevant to project management, with emphasis towards the construction industry. The paper proposes that project complexity can be defined in terms of differentiation and interdependency and that it is managed by integration.
A new systematic approach for the pre-construction planning of construction projects is proposed. Good planning before implementation is a critical requirement for successful delivery of any project. The uniqueness of the approach is stems from planning at the role level and focusing on the effect of the project complexity on project time and cost. The proposed approach will contribute to capturing knowledge and experience and to producing consistency and reliability in the practice of the contractors.
Construction projects are initiated in complex and dynamic environments resulting in circumstances of high uncertainty and risk, which are compounded by demanding time constraints. This paper describes a systematic way to consider and quantify uncertainty in construction schedules. The system incorporates knowledge and experience acquired from many experts, project-specific information, decision analysis techniques, and a mathematical model to estimate the amount of risk in a construction schedule at the initiation of a project. The model provides the means for sensitivity analyses for different outcomes wherein the effect of critical and significant risk factors can be evaluated. The paper focuses on lessons learned from past projects and describes a risk assessment process involving typical inputs and expected outputs. The paper also briefly reviews the information technology of HyperCard and Excel, which were used to develop the system.
This study applies the findings of the new nonlinear sciences to understanding the processes of growing complexity and intensifying chaos [and uncertainty] in the modern world. It also identifies and reviews approaches for living and coping with these trends. Merry seeks to clarify the role of chaos in the transformation of the social sciences to new orders by re-examining and re-evaluating some of the basic tenets of modern social and behavioral science in light of theories of chaos, self-organization, and complexity. Divided into 3 sections, the work provides an overview of the major findings of the new science of chaos; analyzes why chaos is on the upsurge and why human society is experiencing such anxiety about it; and surveys some of the major approaches for dealing with chaos in society, organizations, and our personal lives. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)