Professional expertise

This relates primarily to the expertise developed through to teaching and research. Research work in construction is well developed at Loughborough and the research team were graded at 5* (the highest grade) in the UK's Research assessment exercise 2001

Teaching and training

Professor McCaffer's teaching activity has mainly contributed to postgraduate study programmes, professional development courses and industrial training programmes.

It has focused on Construction Engineering and Construction Management subjects at all levels, largely supported by his own text books of which the most established is Modern Construction Management (Blackwell Scientific Publishing, first edition, 1977; Sixth edition, July 2006).
Other teaching material publications are listed in the books section

An innovative teaching and training tool is the simulation game MERIT, which since 1988 has been run as the National Construction Business Game by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). Some 25,000 young construction executives have participated to date. MERIT is now maintained in a state-of-the-art, interactive, WEB-based version. MERIT can be run remotely from Loughborough to provide assessed course modules, contribute to University degree programmes, or as part of Company training courses.
MERIT web site


Professor McCaffer's research is reported in books, journals and more than 120 conference papers. His work continues to be funded by EPSRC, Government departments, the Teaching Company Directorate, Industry, and the European Union. Much of it has been conducted through the supervision of some 25 PhD students. The research is wide-ranging in scope, its primary aim always being to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the construction industry.
His publications are listed in the Author section

Themes of particular interest include

Contractors' management
Focus here is the management process within contractors' companies, starting with the acquisition of contracts through bidding that is informed and underpinned by estimating procedures. Estimating is seen as a fulcrum management function within construction companies, providing the basis for all bids and supplying data for subsequent management functions.

Bidding analyses as an aid to management include scrutiny of differences between 'price' and 'cost' movements. From this work, decision support-frameworks for aiding commercial bidding decisions were developed.

Work in bidding analysis established the importance of accurate cost estimating. This in turn led to (a) modelling of the estimating processes; (b) providing a basis for estimating-software development; (c) establishing estimating as a crucial part of contractors' management functions.

Data flows
Extending work on the analysis of estimating defined the data flows of cost, resource and productivity data within the subsequent management functions of construction companies.

Software development
The analyses of estimating and data flow within construction companies led to the development of software systems designed to support contractors' estimating and management functions. The software systems included general estimating systems and estimating for house-building and site management. All software systems described in the published papers have been installed and used by construction companies.

Knowledge based systems
Software development included knowledge-based systems technology, particularly as a means of replacing estimators' judgement by more analytical approaches. The means of incorporating knowledge-based systems into large estimating systems was also addressed.

Variability in data
Analysis and modelling research aids understanding of the sources and nature of variability in estimators' data. Such variability arises from material costs, plant rates, changes brought about by the restructuring of the industry, and methods of quantifying disruption. The issue of assessing indirect costs (i.e. overheads) in the make-up of the total cost of a construction project to a constructor was also researched.

Education and training
Major research theme, conducted by survey and data collection, has been into the education and training requirements for a career in construction, and especially for project managers. Linked back to the analyses of data flow within construction companies, this led to the development of 'simulation exercises' as training vehicles, notably MERIT.

MERIT is a comprehensive simulation exercise, modelling the operation of a construction company and enabling teams who 'play' it to make decisions on bidding, overheads allocation, site staffing and production, as well as develop understanding of the company's capital structure (including borrowings and dividend payments).

Future skills
Work on forecasting the future skill requirements of the construction industry has been undertaken as a means of underpinning training policies.

Management of construction equipment
Another important research area, largely neglected elsewhere, has been into the management of construction equipment. Knowledge management Every company readily acknowledges that its biggest asset is its 'knowledge'. Unless defined as intellectual property and embedded in patents or licenses, a company's 'knowledge' does not appear in the balance sheet. In many cases it is managed poorly, if at all. Research was undertaken into 'organisational learning' and the means (a) of recognising its various forms; and (b) of encouraging it in order actively to develop a learning culture within companies. The evidence shows that the companies with better learning cultures are also more agile and profitable.

As the industry at home and internationally continues to mature, the evolution from 'quality assurance' to 'total quality management' has become a key step, the motive being to delight the customer with the quality of service and product. Research has developed (a) the means of measuring the degree to which quality systems have been implemented and (b) the process of implementing such quality systems.

Information and Communication Technology
A recurring research theme has been the use of computers and information and communication technology. Early work on the development of estimating systems and the subsequent downstream management systems that depended on estimating data was extended to embrace site-management systems. This chapter of development coincided with the time when such systems were not well established, so the research role was as much evangelical as it was technical. This research was funded by EPSRC, the Teaching Company Directorate, and by major construction companies.

In the late 1990s a major Europe-wide study named 'eLSEwise' - funded by the EU and major clients and construction companies throughout Europe - was undertaken to identify (a) the ICT needs of clients of large-scale engineering projects and (b) the requirements of the project managers, contractors and suppliers to such projects. In tackling this study the future shape and business drivers of the major clients was investigated, together with the changing services required from the contractors and suppliers who serving the major clients and their projects.

Emerging from this work was a definition of the extended (and partially virtual) enterprise required to deliver a major project. This in turn provided a framework for defining the ICT requirements of all parties involved.

This work led to developments also funded by the EU; in particular, use of the internet (a) to negotiate legal contracts and (b) to enable legal contracts between companies that share data for the project but for whom no other contract exists defining their duties and liabilities.

Other specific software projects

Other software related projects that have explored or developed software usage have included :-

  • Exploration of collaborative working from remote locations
  • On-line transactions
  • Development of systems to assess procurement strategies
  • Cash-flow forecasting
  • Decision support systems

Other studies

A variety of other studies has been undertaken in subjects as diverse as safety, supply chain management