Editorial for ECAM 20.4

ECAM 20.4 has six papers produced by fourteen authors, four from Australia, three from Turkey, two from Egypt, one from Saudi Arabia, two from Germany and two from Hong Kong. There is one single authored paper, two papers with two authors and three papers with three authors. Two papers have authors from two different Universities and one paper has two authors fro a University and one from industry.

The topics are varied and include: carbon footprints; contractors differentiation in Turkey; construction plant fatalities; pre-qualification of contractors; the cost of capital in public-private partnerships and a users’ survey on the maintenance of public housing.

From a personal viewpoint the paper that made me think most was that on the carbon footprint, the paper that was most likely to produce a change of practice was the survey of maintenance in housing.

The papers in this issue are:


Colins introduces us to 2nd generation concrete carbon footprints. The carbon accounting currently deals with the production of the materials , the construction and occupation or use of the concrete structure. This paper explores the impact beyond first use including re-cycling. The study was based on a concrete bridge. An interesting paper that certainly caused me to re-think my understanding of carbon accounting.

Udayan, Dikmen and Birgonul explore what are the drivers to differentiation in the Turkish construction industry. Their study is largely literature based. They identify the divide in differentiation as between ‘quality and image’ or ‘ product variety and speed’. They explain their findings and discuss the consequences of corporate management influence. This divide in differentiation claimed by the authors sits uncomfortably with me I can’t quite see what would produce this fault line. Perhaps I need to read more about the topic.

Lingard, Cooke and Gharaie examine plant fatalities in Australian construction. The researchers data sources are coroners’ investigations. Their analysis used an incident causation model and their findings are detailed but site layout and unsafe actions were the biggest causes. The results indicate that plant-related fatalities occur as a result of a complex interplay of different causes, some of which are ‘upstream’ of the construction work. Their way forward could have been more strongly articulated and is centred on more innovative site planning.

Hosny, Nasser and Esmail offer us a selection method for pre-qualification of contractors using fuzzy-AHP models. Having developed their model they go on to produce the software that undertakes the calculations and validate the model in a case study.

This modelling approach is not new and there are many examples of AHP models. There are, however, few examples of the models used in practice. Why is this? I suspect the detail demanded of the models deters its use and the value of the output is not so great that tackling the the detailed analysis is worthwhile. It is easier just to make a decision even if the justification hasn’t been produced.

So I think the challenge that faces these researchers is to see their model through to routine application. I’m sure it will evolve along the way but routinely applying the model would justify the research effort.

Wibowo and Alfen attempt to determine the cost of capital in risky public-private partnerships that can be compared to the target rate of return. The analysis is theoretical and also uses simulation to assess risk. An interesting paper addressing refined issues in the creation of public-private partnerships. I’m not sure the future of this work. It seems to me that the concept of PPP as a means of Governments creating capital projects without having to put up the capital themselves is well past the first flush of politicians’ enthusiasm and as a vehicle for creating capital projects is now well in decline, if not abandoned by some.

Lai and Lai have conducted a users’ satisfaction suvey on maintenance in public housing in Hong Kong. Their research methodology was questionnaires to determine the users’ satisfaction of the’total maintenance’ scheme introduced in 2006.

The outcome helped identify the inadequacies in the system.

This seems like a worthwhile practical piece of research that will quickly lead to the improvement of house occupants lives.

Ronald McCaffer