ECAM 20.6 Contents list and Editorial


ECAM 20.6


Contents list


Procurement Innovation for Public Construction Projects: A Study of Agent-Construction System and Public-Private Partnership in China




Weisheng Lu, Liu Anita, Hongdi Wang, Zhongbing Wu




Relationship between Building Floor and Construction Labor Productivity: A Case of Structural Work




Long D. Nguyen and Hung T. Nguyen




Using control systems to improve construction project outcomes


Florence Yean Yng LING and Wan Theng ANG




Why do work sampling studies in construction? The case of plumbing work in Scandinavia




Per-Erik Josephson and Lasse Björkman




The Mediation Role of Trust in Knowledge Sharing: A Cognitive Perspective in Chinese Architectural Design Teams




Zhikun Ding, Fungfai Ng and Fungfai Ng




Workplace stress among construction professionals in South Africa: the role of harassment and discrimination




Paul Bowen, Peter Edwards and Helen Lingard




ECAM 20.6 has six papers produced by 16 authors. One paper has four authors, two have three authors and the other three have two authors each. The international spread of the authors is 5 from Hong Kong, 3 from China and Australia, 1 from the USA and 2 each from Singapore and Sweden. Three papers are from two countries and one paper is written jointly between academia and industry. I keep hoping that we would see more papers written on research jointly undertaken by academia and industry. We are in an era when the impact of research on the wider community is being examined more and more by research funders, the UK’s Research Excellence Framework is just one example. I believe that one effective way of demonstrating the value of research to, arguably, the most important section of our wider community, industry, is to undertake research jointly and to publish jointly.




The topics in ECAM 20.6 are procurement systems, productivity improvements in the construction of high rise buildings and productivity increasing due to learning, construction control systems, the value of work sampling studies, trust as a mediator in knowledge sharing and workplace stress. Productivity features in twopapers. Giving my own background (see as an example) these papers on productivity are the ones that attract my attention but I suspect that the paper on trust and knowledge sharing could possibly have a greater benefit in the long term. Studies in this area should be encouraged.




The research methods deployed included semi-structured interviews, case studies and questionnaires. Any student of past editorials will know that I’m not an admirer of postal questionnaires. These questionnaires generally don’t produce a dialogue between the academic researcher and the respondents, usually from industry. The example in this issue is the use of e-mail. I’m left wondering if e-mail could produce a more meaningful interaction. I think we need some description of how to use e-mails to exchange data and information in a way that is less rigid than a postal questionnaire providing more iterations and dialogue. I think I could be convinced that this approach is getting closer to interviewing.




The papers in this issue are:




Weisheng, Liu, Hongdi and Zhongbing are interested in procurement systems and have set out to discover the Political, Economic, Social Technological, Environmental and Legal (PESTEL) consequences of two ‘state-of-the-art’ procurement systems in China. These are an agent-construction system and a Public-Private-Partnership. The data collection was largely semi-structured interviews using a PESTEL framework. Some useful insights but the conclusions and observations could have been more focussed. To achieve procurement innovation requires congruence between the procurement system and the PESTEL conditions, but we need to know how to achieve that.














Nguyen and Nguyen used a case study approach to study labour productivity. Records from the structural work of a 20-storey apartment building were analyzed to calculate floor-based labour productivities. Some interesting observations, eg labour productivity doubled over the first five floors and re-bar activity increased over fifteen floors. Deeper insights into the learning principles underlying these productivity improvements would be welcomed. Can the learning be sufficiently quantified to be included in planning. A lifetime ago when the planning technique line-of-balance was being used for repetitive construction work the planning targets were almost always exceeded because of the learning effect in the repetitive work. These two authors seem to be reviving this area of research.




Ling and Ang start with the assumption that poor project outcomes are a result of the lack of control systems. So these authors researched the control systems adopted by the construction with a view to developing a project performance predictive model based on the control system adopted.


The data from Singaporean contractors was collected by e-mail, a modern version of the postal questionnaire.


The researchers claim that the research establishes the importance of control systems and that the three predictive models developed are robust. However the authors go on to discuss the limitations of the research.


A case study describing the application of the predictive models and the benefits to the contractor would a useful next step.






Josephson and Björkman examine whether work sampling studies in processes performed by temporary organizations can be used to measure productivity and compare performance over time.


The researchers conducted work sampling studies of plumbing work on eight construction sites and the data was compared to a similar study 20 years earlier. Interviews were used to compare work methods over the two studies.


The authors argue that the main benefit of work sampling studies is to stimulate discussion between workers and management on possible improvement opportunities. The authors query the benefit of such studies in measuring productivity as conditions vary from site to site. What the authors are describing are the difficulties faced by estimators and estimating systems based on data files of working methods. Productivity data collected from work in practice cannot be used in estimating without considerable judgements being applied.




















Ding, Ng and Ng studied the role of trust as a mediator in knowledge sharing within Chinese architectural teams. A questionnaire survey was conducted with Bejing architects. The model was that trust was a mediator in knowledge sharing.


The findings show that the mediation role of trust between two personal construct based factors i.e. social interaction and attitude on work, and willingness to share knowledge is supported.


Trust is elusive and any work that can provide a better understanding of the frameworks within which trust can make a meaningful contribution is useful.










Bowen, Edwards and Lingard explore work place stress due to harassment and discrimination in South Africa. The data was collected from 626 respondents using an online survey. Harassment and discrimination on ethnic grounds are experienced in all of the South African construction professions included in the survey. Respondents also indicated that they felt underpaid and that their job security was adversely affected by their ethnicity. Sexual harassment and gender-based harassment and discrimination were more frequently reported by architects than by other professionals. Harassment and discrimination were found to correlate with higher perceived levels of work stress.


The authors describe the responsibility of Government and Unions to develop strategies to improve workplace practice. However the Universities have a huge opportunity and responsibility to provide the educational platforms and training that will assist, they need strategies too.






As this is the final edition of 2013 it is appropriate to thank the unsung workers that make refereed publishing function and that is our set of referees without whose assistance we wouldn’t be able to function. It is too simple just to say thanks to our referees, they don’t know how much we appreciate their efforts.




Edition 20.6 sees the end of ECAM’s twentieth year. It feels like a landmark. Back in 1994 when we started we didn’t look this far ahead, it was fun starting a new journal. It still is fun but I think we now also add a little pride that we’ve reached this age.




Ronald McCaffer