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Blockchain and Smart Contracts for Integrated Project Delivery: Inspiration from the Commons

Conference Paper

Blockchain and Smart Contracts for Integrated Project Delivery: Inspiration from the Commons

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OC
Working Paper
Proceedings
18th Annual
Engineering
Project
Organization
Conference
Proceedings Editors
Kasey Faust, The University of Texas at Austin
Sittimont Kanjanabootra, University of Newcastle
EPOS
© Copyright belongs to the authors. All rights reserved.
Blockchain and Smart Contracts
for Integrated Project Delivery:
Inspiration from the Commons
Jens J. Hunhevicz; ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Pierre-Antoine Brasey; ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Marcella M. Bonanomi; ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Daniel M. Hall; ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Proceedings EPOC 2020 Conference
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BLOCKCHAIN AND SMART CONTRACTS FOR INTEGRATED PROJECT
DELIVERY: INSPIRATION FROM THE COMMONS
Jens J. Hunhevicz1, Pierre-Antoine Brasey2, Marcella M. M. Bonanomi3, Daniel M. Hall4
RESEARCH PURPOSE
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is an emerging collaborative project delivery model for
the delivery of construction projects. IPD uses a shared financial pool to share risk and reward
among project participants depending on the outcome of the project. IPD also emphasizes
decentralized, agile, and self-organized project governance arranged by the project participants.
Blockchain is an emerging technology that enables direct peer-to-peer transactions of
value and the immutable and trusted storage of data. Newer types of blockchain enable self-
executing and immutable code protocols to run on top of it, so-called smart contracts. These
smart contracts can be used to create autonomous workflows or containers of value, so-called
tokens. The value propositions of blockchain could be useful for many proposed applications in
construction (Li, Greenwood and Kassem, 2019; Jens J. Hunhevicz and Hall, 2020). Especially
the possibility to build incentive systems with smart contracts and tokens in order to address
human coordination challenges could also be used in collaborative construction projects (Jens
Juri Hunhevicz and Hall, 2020).
This strong theoretical alignment between the objectives of IPDs and the potential
benefits of blockchain has not escaped recent attention of researchers. Elghaish et al. (2020) have
developed a framework and prototype using Hyperledger Fabric to apply blockchain to the
existing IPD financial risk-and-reward system. However, there could be many additional
opportunities to apply blockchain to collaborative project delivery models such as IPD beyond
the often mentioned financial applications.
Still, it remains difficult to conceptualize and understand the opportunities to apply
blockchain to IPD. There is need for future guidance to researchers that identifies how
blockchain can be applied in a broader sense to IPD governance.
BRIEF RESEARCH APPROACH
In the paper, we suggest that established design principles from the governance of
Common Pool Resource (CPR) scenarios is a helpful theoretical conceptualization that is
particularly useful to guide future research and applications of blockchain in construction.
The paper builds upon three fundamental ideas: IPD, CPR scenario governance, and
blockchain (Figure 1).
1 Ph.D. Candidate, Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction, Department of Civil, Environmental &
Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, hunhevicz@ibi.baug.ethz.ch
2 Graduate, Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction, Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic
Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, pierre.brasey@alumni.ethz.ch
3 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction, Department of Civil,
Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, bonanomi@ibi.baug.ethz.ch
4 Associate Professor, Chair of Innovative and Industrial Construction, Department of Civil, Environmental &
Geomatic Engineering, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, hall@ibi.baug.ethz.ch
Proceedings EPOC 2020 Conference
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In IPD, various governance mechanisms ensure that construction project resources are
governed appropriately (Figure 1; (1)). Similarly, Ostrom (2015) defined eight principles to
govern CPR in a non-hierarchical manner (Figure 1; (2)).
Hall (2017) and Bonanomi et al. (2019) proposed a connection between CPR (and the
Ostrom Principles) and construction project resources, stating that there are similarities in how
limited resources can be exploited in both (Figure 1; (3)).
Recently, various sources propose blockchain as a suited tool to more efficiently realize
approaches for the management of CPR in line with the Ostrom principles (Figure 1, (4)). They
state that blockchain has specific affordances aligned with the characteristics needed to manage
CPR in a non-hierarchical, decentralized way (e.g. Rozas et al. (2018)). Moreover, first
scholarship (Elghaish, Abrishami and Hosseini, 2020) highlighted the potential alignment of
blokchain with IPD (Figure 1, (5).
Building from this conceptualization, the paper proposes future research directions for
IPD blockchain research as guided by the design principles of CPR scenarios.
Figure 1. Schematic representation of the connections between the investigated fields and the proposed
conceptualization.
KEY FINDINGS
Initial use cases of blockchain for IPD governance were summarized and the potential on
how they could be applied in IPDs was investigated. The overarching future research areas are
related to the digitalization of processes and the creation of incentive mechanisms. Both of them
seem promising for a more efficient and sophisticated decentralized governance of IPDs. They
might allow for more automation and transparency of processes, as well as incentives to align
involved actors around the optimal management of project resources in line with the overall
project success (Figure 2).
Proceedings EPOC 2020 Conference
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Figure 2. A simplified overview on how blockchain can be applied to IPD with two main applications: digitizing
processes [A] and incentive mechanisms [B].
The paper shows that there is indeed promising alignment between blockchain for CPR
and IPD. Beyond some differences of IPD and CPR related to their context, it seems that many
of the proposed blockchain use cases can be transferred.
Having said that, challenges and limitations remain and are discussed. Among them are
the early state of both blockchain and IPD, the difficulties in designing complex autonomous
systems, and the socio-technological challenges to overcome when dealing with such new ideas.
IMPLICATIONS
Using the proposed conceptualization, there is an opportunity to understand how to best
design and manage future governance and organizational structures of an IPD using blockchain.
This can assist with the migration of existing IPD processes to a more automated, transparent
system. It can also enable researchers to conceive of new ways for IPD to evolve, or even enable
the formulation of new and future collaborative project delivery models governed through the
blockchain.
REFERENCES
Bonanomi, M., Fischer, S. and Hall, D. M. (2019) ‘Identifying Project Management
Practices for the Multi-Party Construction Commons’, in 17th Annual Engineering Porject
Organization Conference (EPOC). Vail, CO. Available at:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336720326 (Accessed: 15 January 2020).
Elghaish, F., Abrishami, S. and Hosseini, M. R. (2020) ‘Integrated project delivery with
blockchain: An automated financial system’, Automation in Construction. Elsevier,
114(November 2019), p. 103182. doi: 10.1016/j.autcon.2020.103182.
Hall, D. (2017) ‘Conceptualizing IPD Governance as a Common-Pool Resour ce
Scenario’. Edited by A. Mahalingam, T. Shealy, and N. Gil. Stanford Sierra Camp, California:
Engineering Project Organization Society (EPOS) Conference Proceedings.
Hunhevicz, Jens Juri and Hall, D. M. (2020) ‘Crypto-Economic Incentives in the
Construction Industry’. Available at: https://www.research-
collection.ethz.ch:443/handle/20.500.11850/420837 (Accessed: 10 August 2020).
Proceedings EPOC 2020 Conference
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Hunhevicz, Jens J. and Hall, D. M. (2020) ‘Do you need a blockchain in construction?
Use case categories and decision framework for DLT design options’, Advanced Engineering
Informatics. Elsevier, 45(February), p. 101094. doi: 10.1016/j.aei.2020.101094.
Li, J., Greenwood, D. and Kassem, M. (2019) ‘Blockchain in the built environment and
construction industry: A systematic review, conceptual models and practical use cases’,
Automation in Construction. Elsevier, 102, pp. 288–307. doi: 10.1016/J.AUTCON.2019.02.005.
Ostrom, E. (2015) Governing the Commons, Canto Classics. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781316423936.
Rozas, D. et al. (2018) ‘When Ostrom Meets Blockchain: Exploring the Potentials of
Blockchain for Commons Governance’, SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3272329.
... Smart contracts can be used to create autonomous workflows Fig. 2 Blockchain affordances allow to establish trusted digital processes (a) and incentive mechanisms (b) for decentralized governance mechanisms. Adapted from Hunhevicz et al. [13,14] for any process that can be formalized into programmable rules. In essence, smart contracts encode custom rules on the blockchain. ...
... Proposed solutions are uploaded, stored, presented, and evaluated in a DAO in which the decision process gets validated via the reputation of the participants and its governance system. Furthermore, blockchain-based governance mechanisms could facilitate future forms of project delivery models [13]. The argument is based on the theoretical fit between new forms of delivery models such as IPD with CPR theory [125], and the alignment of blockchain-based governance to scale CPR scenarios. ...
Chapter
This chapter outlines the promise of blockchain for the construction industry. Blockchain is an opportunity to create novel forms of economic coordination toward better collaboration within and across the built asset life cycle phases. Ongoing research tends to focus on blockchain to increase trust in existing processes. Instead, we argue blockchain’s disruptive potential is the creation of novel economic coordination. Therefore, we intend to advance the thinking around the promise of blockchain as an institutional innovation in the construction industry. First, we explain how the underlying cryptoeconomic governance mechanisms of blockchain can facilitate new decentralized coordination mechanisms between both humans and machines. Next, we provide an alternative vision for the governance of construction 4.0 to explain how cryptoeconomic coordination can address long-standing problems in the construction industry. Finally, we propose an adoption framework that can guide researchers and practitioners to explore the promise of blockchain and cryptoeconomics for the construction industry.
... Trust is a very important element to promote collaboration among transacting parties (Fan et al., 2018) and Blockchain improves how construction records are trusted, ranging from material quantities inspected to the storage of data generated by sensors (Turk and Klinc, 2017). Continuing on the collaboration between peers, Blockchain can be used in the controlling Common Pool Resources (CPR) in projects of limited resources (Hunhevicz, 2020) creating an incentive mechanism based on Blockchain tokens. Figure 7: Blockchain can be applied to IPD digitizing processes and incentive mechanisms (Hunhevicz, 2020) ...
... Continuing on the collaboration between peers, Blockchain can be used in the controlling Common Pool Resources (CPR) in projects of limited resources (Hunhevicz, 2020) creating an incentive mechanism based on Blockchain tokens. Figure 7: Blockchain can be applied to IPD digitizing processes and incentive mechanisms (Hunhevicz, 2020) ...
... While we might be able to look at Common Pool resources problems and Ostrom Design Principles [27,34] to be able to structure the boundaries of the local environment where design collaboration might occur [22], the structure and mechanisms of the collaboration still remain a question. For this, we turn to stigmergy. ...
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... Elghaish et al. [14] proposed a framework of an Integrated project delivery (IPD) with blockchain involving an automated financial system that enables core project team members to automatically execute all financial transactions transparently through coding as functions of a smart contract. Hunhevicz et al. [49] suggested that decentralized governance of IPDs using blockchain might allow for more automation and transparency of processes, including motivations to align engaged actors around the optimal management of project resources corresponding to the overall project success. The blockchain's role in terms of transparency throughout the traditional and new collaborative project delivery approaches is summarized in Table 24.2. ...
Chapter
Blockchain as a form of distributed ledger enabling the renowned cryptocurrency Bitcoin has been in the spotlight since the late 2000s. The early discussions on its practical implementation were conducted mainly for the banking and finance industries with a promising narrative. Alongside the recent surge in the interest for the technology for a wide-range of possible applications such as smart contracts, crypto-assets, tokenization, secure transaction recording, peer-to-peer (P2P) trade, and transparent governance, its potential for the Built Environment (BE) has started to come more frequently into question. These discussions often contain a tone of caution, nevertheless, hinting the challenges for the technology in the BE context. This chapter is aimed at summarizing those opportunities and challenges for blockchain in the BE with a particular emphasis on its potential influence on trust, transparency and cybersecurity. Directions of future research are also provided contributing to the cyber-physical convergence in Construction 4.0.
... By coding the three major activities of IPD projects: reimbursement expenditures, profit, and cost savings as functions of the IPD smart contract, the framework would enable core project team members to perform all financial transactions automatically (Elghaish and Abrishami, 2020c). The proposed usage of the IPD-based blockchain provides a variety of benefits, including 1) simplifying decision-making among IPD core team members, 2) recording cumulative risk/reward values for each network participant, and 3) establishing smart contracts that address legal problems (Hunhevicz et al., 2020, Elghaish et al., 2020b The Internet of Things (IoT) envisions a future in which digital and physical things or objects (such as mobile devices, machines, and tools) may be linked together using appropriate information and communication technologies to allow a variety of applications and services (Razzaque et al., 2015, Rahimian et al., 2008. Teizer et al. (2017) present the notion of perpetual availability of up-to-date real performance data sets using Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology that incorporates environmental and localization data in a cloud-based BIM platform in a study. ...
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