Contents list and editorial for ECAM 20.3

Contents list


Eliciting a Continuum of Value from Construction Practitioners

Derek S. Thomson, Simon A. Austin, Grant R. Mills and Hannah Devine-Wright


Developing a planned work process model for Housing Associations

Hervé Leblanc, Craig Thomson, Iain Cameron and Pollaphat Nitithamyong


The Social Life of the Novel Idea: What did social psychologists ever do for us?

Jennifer Eve Barrett, Jack Goulding and Pamela Qualter


The Project Insurance Option in Infrastructure Procurement

Issaka Ndekugri, Hannah Daeche and Diwei Zhou


The Need to Improve Double-Loop Learning and Design-Construction Feedback Loops: A Survey of Industry Practice

James R.Henderson, Kirti D. Ruikar and Andrew R.J. Dainty


The Effect of Cross-Cultural Uncertainty and Complexity within Multicultural Construction Teams

E.G. Ochieng, A.D.F. Price, X.Ruan, C.O. Egbu and D. Moore




ECAM 20.3 as usual has six papers. What is very unusual is that they are all from the UK. I can’t remember when this last happened and we usually boast of our wide international group of authors but not this time. Perhaps the up-coming UK research assessment exercise, now known as a Research Excellence Framework (REF), is motivating the UK researchers to publish. The six papers took 22 authors to produce. This is a high number for six papers. Is it a commentary on the productivity of UK researchers that it takes so many!?. Three papers had 3 authors, two papers had 4 authors and one paper had 5 authors. Two have a co-author from industry and one paper is multi-institutional.

The papers are varied and include the topics of value, work process models, the contributions of social psychologists, project insurance, learning in construction and multicultural teams. The research methodologies included surveys both online and postal, interviews, workshops, group discussions and literature reviews.

The paper that I felt closest too was the paper on learning between construction and design mainly because of my own experience which included being the interface between the construction site and the design office on a major design construct project. The gulf between the two entities was something we faced every day and took considerable patience to manage. Aspiring to institutionalise the feedback is a challenge. The other paper that took me forward was the work of social psychologists largely because it’s a field of endeavour that I have never occupied.

The papers on work process models, multicultural teams and project insurance all aim at providing practical advice.

The papers in this issue are:

Thomson, Austin, Mills and Devine-Wright seek to provide a continuum of value from construction practioners. The study reported in this paper sought to determine the construction practioners understanding of value and how this influenced their intent on delivering value. The study determined that the understanding of value comprised related concepts but resolved into a one-dimensional ‘value continuum’ and confirms the need for practioners to facilitate stakeholders’ exploration of the value agenda

The researchers should extend this finding to explore its impact on the practioners. How should the practioners engage the other stakeholders? Who needs persuading to take this approach? Whose thinking needs changing? Can it be demonstrated who would benefit? How would change come about? Does it require training?

Leblanc, Thomson, Cameron and Nitithamyong try to persuade us to develop a planned work process model for housing associations (HA), an effort to improve what they describe as an often ill-defined process.

Their data came from interviews with 11 housing associations from which they developed a 20 activities to form an initial process model tested with four case studies to produce their final model validated by a panel of HA experts.

The validation is reported to have been valuable and alerted the HA experts to a means of inducting new staff.

The real test would be to implement the work process model and monitor its effectiveness and report back in a later paper.

Barrett, Goulding and Qualter ask the question ‘what did social psychologists ever do for us’? The paper reports on a review of literature relating to the social processes of innovation and attempts to connect the work of social psychology and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC).

The researchers established the social processes already present and examine ideas in social psychology that are likely to be important in understanding group processes within AEC. The themes were social climate, risk attitude and motivation and reward.

The paper reports that social climate and motivation/reward are well represented they have not been fully explored. The collective attitude to risk influencing is identified as having a limited presence.

Did this paper answer the authors’ own question? Readers can decide for themselves.

Ndekugri, Daeche and Zhou examine the project insurance option in infrastructure projects. The paper is intended to explore the project insurance practices based on a questionnaire survey across four sectors of the industry. The findings are direct experience of project insurance is patchy and it raises doubt whether project insurance offers significant advantages over traditional insurance. One advantage may be the avoidance of litigation brought about by fragmented insurance cover that leads to disputes on who is liable. The disadvantage is that there appears to be duplication and the costs are not reduced.

An informative paper providing some practical insights.

Henderson, Ruikar and Dainty survey industry practice to try to improve learning in design and construction. There is a need to improve cross learning between design and construction and the need to provide a feedback loop. The data comes from an on-line survey covering planning, design, construction and facilities’ management. The main finding is the need for feedback from construction to design if continuous improvement is to be achieved. The authors tell us how difficult this is and propose a double-loop learning approach. A strategy for implementing it is needed.

Having spent some time on the construction site and some time on the drawing board (before CAD) this paper interested me. The designer (ie my drawing board phase) is frequently at the limit of understanding of the implications of the design on construction. The feedback loops in those days were informal and usually relied on phoning colleagues on site, even contacts in different companies. Now in modern times one company I know creates databases of relevant contacts and provides them to their staff to aid this informal feedback. Quite where this fits into to formal models and whether it is something the social psychologists could improve seems a field worth exploring.

Ochieng, Price, Ruan, Egbu and Moore explore cross-cultural uncertainty and complexity within multi-cultural construction teams. Managing multi-cultural teams is challenging. Twenty senior construction managers interviewed including ten in the UK. The results were analysed and presented to participants in workshops and in group discussions. The key finding is that project leaders need to learn how to control their own characteristics and use them selectively focussing on team outputs and the attributes that characterise a multi-cultural team. The researchers stop short of telling us how to achieve this. Would training be the answer? Could Universities set up a training centre for multi-cultural team project managers? We need something positive to emerge from this improved understanding.


Ronald McCaffer