Analysis of construction innovation in mega-projects in UAE
Analysis of Construction Innovation in Mega projects
While the industry of construction has immensely developed over the recent years, there has been increased pressure and challenges that force the stakeholders to take innovative measures and to convey an improved value for money for their clienteles. These demands include, but are not limited to:
The usage of resources to be made highly efficient.
Costs, both short-term and long-term, should be reduced.
Adjustment towards environmental sustainability.
Communication between each stakeholder in the design process.
Inappropriate risk allocation
Problems in management
Inefficient construction methods
The demands can either be met through solutions with knowledge that is already existent or by making or forging new methodologies. Nevertheless, there are particular traits of the industry that slow down the progress and increasingly make innovation difficult. This is due to the fact that the specific interplay of industry adaptation and technological change and development has traits that are exclusive to the construction of buildings (Valence, 2010, 1).
Innovation entails both processes and products. The innovation of products alludes to the introduction of novel materials or/and apparatuses into the product that is constructed, which has been common in recent years. In contrast, the innovation of processes entails new structures in organizations, methods of management, as well as other actions and techniques that improve the processes of the business and give it a competitive edge. Innovation and novelty are continuously perceived in projects. Nevertheless, they influence and are influenced by their environments outside the project-based limitations. Innovations are reliant on good projects and are thus affected by contexts. The interconnection between context and innovation is holistic and is related to a view that is structurational in nature (Papadonikolaki, Morgan & Davies, 2018, 1). The industry’s historical sense, with robust traditions of craft and emphasis on specific projects, has considerably influenced determinations to innovate the product’s construction in regards to time, costs, and quality. This particular study will embark on the innovation in the processes that are involved in mega constructions in lieu of the products of construction. This is because construction is a process and not a product of a process. Among the major variation in the process of construction and other industries is that the construction industry production and design are commonly two separate entities, whereas in other industries if the two functions are not integrated, they are undertaken by the same companies. For the mega construction process to be innovative, the characteristics of a process of successful innovation ought to be attained. This is highly necessary in the process of construction because, in the conventional times, construction has been termed as less satisfactory. This is due to a plethora of factors which are often interdependent as they are supportive of each other. Many individuals concur that change is a necessity and is usually a collective process of the stakeholders in the mega projects in a bid to fulfill new demands.
The construction industry, especially mega projects, has been marred with different problems that force it to find new ways in solving the problems instead of the traditional means. In this regards, the new solutions bring about innovation that tends to change how the construction industry normally functions. These are the essential questions that this research will try to answer (Widen, 2002, 12):
What kinds of innovation took place in mega projects and why?
Are these innovations effective?
What problems do they solve?
How does the construction industry react/adapt to this?
RESEARCH AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The major aims of this research are to forge a theoretical framework upon which processes of innovation in mega projects can be attained. This project can as well be a basis for further practical development in smaller construction projects and experimentation of novel and improved methodologies. This research analyzes the processes of innovation in successful mega projects that have occurred. It will tend to uncover what necessitated the initiation of the process and how the process ensued.
Moreover, the research will delve into the efficiency of the innovative process as contrasted to the conventional methods of satisfying the necessity that initiated the process. Because the innovative processes are assumed to give a competitive advantage to a particular company, how its competitors reacted to the situation in a bid to stay relevant will be analyzed. In this regards, the research is aimed at creating case studies in particular innovative processes in mega construction projects around the globe.
The secondary aims of the study are to add on to the existent theoretical frameworks on the domain of innovation in the construction industry. Furthermore, it is aimed at familiarizing the readership with the knowledge of case studies on how to successfully innovate in construction and embed that into the mainstream. It will also act as a guide to offset potential problems in the process of innovation, as the case studies in this project will entail the intricate processes, problems, and solutions in the particular processes of innovation in the mega projects.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, innovation is defined as “the introduction of something new” or it “a new idea, method, or device” (Meriam Webster, 2018, N.p). Within the context of construction, it is the production of new processes in construction or a new product of construction. The innovation measures, like technological research, patents, introduction of new products or processes, of the construction industry has recorded an extremely low rate of adoption of new technologies and has thus been seen as a laggard when it pertains to innovation. This is also contributed by the low research and development levels. Although authors like Winch (1998, 268), argue that the comparison between manufacturing and construction is intrinsically predisposed against construction, in case the R&D criteria is utilized, this is nevertheless a widely accepted norm. However, one issue that is raised by this debate on innovation is whether individuals understand the rate of advancement of technology and innovation in the industry. Utilizing the ideas of complex innovation (Hobday’s 1998, 689) that was further developed by Gann and Salter (2000), it is probably because many aspects that influence the development of technological capabilities and innovation are disregarded especially in regards to practice and customs.
Mega construction projects have garnered attention among researchers, politicians, practitioners, as well as the community in contemporary times. According to Flyvbjerg (2014, 6 as cited in Erol, Dikmen, Atasoy, and Birgonul, 2018, 1022), global spending in megaprojects constitutes more than 8% of the aggregate gross domestic product (GDP), that depicts that it is the “the biggest investment boom in human history” (Erol, Atasoy, Birgonul, 2018, 1022). As per the industry’s popularity, research in megaprojects has become a lucrative area especially in areas of management of construction. According to Erol et al., (2018) the megaproject term was founded in 1976, and since then, academic publications have increased ever since.
the characteristics of research and development in the construction industry
The construction industry is known to be heterogeneous in that it is dispersed widely, and it is uncommon to find two products that have the same characteristics. It offers a product that is customized and has unique characteristics like durability, complexity, immobility, high risk of failure and costliness (Nam and Tatum, 1998, 133). The construction industry’s repetitions are also minimized, and the projects are individually made to satisfy a particular function or to meet a standard. Even though many process and design skills are commonly utilized, the outputs of each project differ highly thus impacting the economies of scale as well as the efficiency of the process of construction, which in turn considerably impacts the technological development and innovation. Papers by Tatum embarked on constraints and advantages to innovation in construction, and although his research was done a long time ago, it still encapsulates the recent works done by Fairclough (2002), Reichstein et al. (2005, 631-644), and Slaughter (1998, 226). Tatum managed to identify several construction features that he purports to have innovation advantages. He says that the teams of construction projects are typically provided with problems that are highly challenging and has high necessity levels, thus promoting innovation by compelling them to look for newer technologies for individual projects. Engineering integration, design, and construction can simplify the process of construction in order to reduce costs. Among the characteristics of the construction industry having a low capital investment, gives flexibility for newer technological adoption. A group of individuals who are technologically savvy provides knowledge depth. The robust prominence on process decreases hurdles to imitation, due to the fact that novel processes have the ability to quickly spread without the restraints on patents. Finally, the production process in construction do not have restraints that are rigid (Slaughter 1993, 532).
Five different characteristics were also identified in which they saw as being constraints to innovation. For instance, the low intensity in capital investments constrains its interest in automation and investment. If an organization has market shares that are adequate they are profitable. Thus innovative pressure is significantly minimized. The frameworks of the institutions do not advocate for innovation. Moreover, the volatility of the building cycle affects capital investment as well as economies of scale, and the suppliers have not attempted improvements in technology in the tools and equipment utilized in the processes of construction. The analysis by Tatum is a description of the construction industry and is also representative of most of the research conducted on this domain. However, it does not explain how the processes of innovations occur, or could take place in the construction industry. Reichstein et al. (2005, 631) identify the organizational liabilities for innovation and innovation demand from the market and clients. In the same manner, Manley and Mcafallan (2006, 911) identified the individual firms’ business strategies to be more crucial than marketing strategies or markets for innovating organizations or firms. Gann (2003: 554) quotes Bowley (1960, N.p) as depicting that construction industry adopts innovations from other industries, instead of making their own innovations. The work by Bowley shows demands for new building types is crucial in the stimulation of radical organizational and technical innovation compared to the necessity to erect cheaper and better buildings to accommodate functions that are already existent. The author also shows that innovation of products that are outside the construction industry has played a critical character in the construction evolution.
One thing that is noticeable about all this research is that none of them explain the industry’s innovation record that are grounded in broader innovation theories that are available, to identify the crucial factors that are at work. The approach using industry characteristics, even when conducted with Manley and Kajewski (2011, 135) detail, is more enhanced at firm levels as opposed to the industrial one. However, in mega construction projects, their problems are more pronounced as one little mistake or error could render the whole project as a failure. This means that they have to constantly innovate and create newer solutions as they are bound to face challenges along the construction chain. This is why the mega construction industries are among the best realms for studies in innovation in the construction industry.
CHALLENGES OF MEGA CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
The mega construction projects usually represent an option that is strategic towards the achievement of sustainable development, especially in the developing countries. These projects are typically characterized by necessity or high knowledge in design and technical skills (Khamaksron, 2016, 93); competent managerial capacities as well as human resources and excessive cost investment. Contrariwise, developing countries in the world usually lack these requirements, which acts as a barrier to the development of mega construction projects. Usually, the governments in the countries that are termed as developing (where more than 85% of the global population live), typically develop mega construction projects to attain their economic and socially sustainable development aims. This attained via the construction of industrial, infrastructural, cultural, educational, transportation, residential, and medical projects which give societies their needs as well as fulfilling their requirements (Othman, 2012, 377; Mthalane et al., 2007, 1; Field and ofori, 1998, 41). Mega construction projects are usually risk-prone, complex, and time-consuming processes that are usually initiated by jurisdictions but are delivered by international and national participants who often have different differences regarding backgrounds, culture, political systems, and languages (Shore and Cross, 2005). They usually garner high public interests and political interests because of the substantial costs, indirect and direct impact on the society, budgets, and environments. The engineering challenges facing the development of mega construction projects in developing countries need skills, expertise, and design knowledge. The lack of professional proficiency, shortage of understanding of technical and scientific requirements (Georgieva, 2012, N.p) as well as the improper making of decisions and overlooking of the stakeholders and specialists consultation amid the decision-making process hinder the development of mega construction projects, especially in developing countries. These were among the challenges in the Toshka project, which was a water infrastructure development in Egypt (Othman, 2013, 735). Different examples of technical failure in the entail:
High saline environment levels in the Western Deserts and underground aquifers presence acted as one of the major hindrances in irrigation projects. This is because when the lands are irrigated, the salts mix with the aquifers thus reducing access to water that is potable.
The mineral clays in the soil pose technical difficulties to the structures that are big-wheeled and move around in an autonomous manner to irrigate the land. The wheels typically get stuck in the bowls that are created by dried wet clay, thus machines used in irrigation to come to a standstill.
Among the major problems that influence the Great Man made River in Libya’s performance is the corrosion and rusts in the water pumps that are installed in the project. This is typically the outcomes of ignoring the warnings from the Danish equipment provider over the excessive utilization of chlorine in the purification of water. In this manner, the administrators of the project reduced the pressure in the pipes in order to repair and install new pipes.
Lack of experience in design and capabilities in management play a crucial role in the misunderstanding of the requirements of the client and incomplete project objectives achievement (Georgieva, 2012, N.p). Moreover, the implications have negative impacts on the project via the specification of outdated materials which are no longer manufactured. The stakeholders of the project thus change the specifications at the later project stages.
Lack of capacities in research to address modern environmental and social problems and lack of investments in private business innovation and improved products and processes is a barrier to progress. This is because the private division has the experience and potential in assisting the jurisdiction to achieve development that is sustainable.
The shortages in the provision of professional training and quality education programs are among the major challenges that lead to the lack of the provision of mega construction projects with human resources that are highly qualified, that have the proper skills which match the demands of the project as well as geography. Moreover, lack of human resource progress in disciplines that are management related leads to poor experienced staff supply, who have the ability to accept crucial roles. Among the best examples in this domain is the FIFA 2010 stadia construction in South Africa, which had stalled for days due to lack of experienced personnel to undertake the jobs.
Apparently, all this major challenges are existent in the mega projects both in the developed and developing countries. These challenges forced the project stakeholders in finding new solutions thus initiating innovation. This project will thus analyze different case studies of innovation in mega constructions around the world from the initial phase of the need for innovation until execution and completion.
Due to the project being based on the creation of a theoretical framework, it will not take a primary study approach but rather an analysis of case studies of innovation in mega projects. Based on the investment concept in construction, the sector is particularly defined by the inputs from engineers, architects, contractors and suppliers of construction materials and equipment. Specific processes of construction are designed every time and a novel set of plant and equipment are assembled in situ. According to a plethora of researchers, a usual amount that is budgeted for the purpose of design is in the regions of 7%, and the amount that is estimated on the companies’ spending on the development of technologies and site layout are estimated to be around 3%. Even so, the amount that is spent on lab is only 0.4% of the output of the construction process.
These concerns lead to the deduction that an internal methodology that uses a general case study research and observation is the best method for understanding the innovation phenomenon in construction. The major innovations in mega projects will be selected and analyzed on an individual level for the challenges that initiated the process. Moreover, how the solutions were formulated, and the processes taken to initiate the process will be encapsulated. Furthermore, any domino effects on the relevant industry will be delved into regarding how the different mega projects, as well as other industries, reacted either by assimilating the same innovative process or formulating some of their own. In addition, the efficiency and effectiveness of the innovative process towards the particular mega project or the construction industry will be analyzed using performance measurement models to compare the before and after innovation application.
References to innovation in the process of construction will be sought after using a wide range of sources including conference papers, journal articles, trade magazines, government reports, and websites of construction companies. To ensure the academic prominence and credibility of the collected information only works that are peer reviewed will be considered. In this manner, only journal articles and conference paper will be entailed. This is a primary decision to embark on journal articles due to their high rank in the academic community as contrasted to conference papers as well as the added trouble in the access to conference papers.
In order to collect journal articles that are based on innovation in the construction realm, the study will employ the following criteria: Initially, the keywords ‘innovative’, ‘construction,’ ‘innovation’ and ‘mega-projects’ will be searched in the leading journals that are internationally based in the domain of primary research databases. In order to limit the outcomes of the search to articles that were recently published within ten years (2008-2018), the results will be filtered to ensure that the works are still relevant to date.
Fig 1. Factors the articles will be analyzed against (adapted from Dickinson, Cooper, McDermott, and Eaton, 2005, 590)
Examined factors Constructs
Analysis levels Industry/National, Firm/Multi-project Organization Project, Professional/Industrial, Client, Product
lifecycle stages Design, Prepare, Construct, Post-Construct
Sector Civil Engineering, Mega Projects, Construction
Innovation definition Yes/No
Research Stream Innovation diffusion, innovation determinants, innovation process
Background of Author(s) Practitioner, Academic, Practitioner and Academic, Government and Academic
Article sources Review or Empirical
Proposed future research Yes/No
Finally, all the articles on construction innovation that will be within the filtered periods will be analyzed as depicted in Fig 1. The articles will then be categorized by the constructs of each factor. The process of coding will accurately identify the focus on each paper for the individual factors that are analyzed. Where an article will be deemed to fall within one or more construct of the factors, the main construct will be selected for analysis. After the process of coding, the data will then be gathered, organized, and analyzed for any trend and gaps in knowledge.
Among the most important factors of how the analysis process will take place is initially, a strict outline will be made in which the research study will be based. The major points of analysis will be the type of innovative process, why the innovation was necessitated, and how the process was propagated. This will be the main constituents of the outline, upon which relevant information will be obtained and keyed in. After this process, to analyze their efficiency and subsequent impacts in the construction industry, performance measurement models like those explained by Ivanov and Avasilcai (2014, 397) will be used. This entails the Balanced scorecard, Malcom Baldridge, Performance prism and the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) (Ivanov and Avasilcai, 2014, 397). They will be used as a basis to rank the most innovative process in terms of satisfaction of the necessities as well as initiating a revolution in the construction industry. Particularly, different sources of primary case studies on innovation that are already conducted will be analyzed meaning that this research will take a review approach for the case study analyses.
Step No. Description Allocated Days Due date
Project Initiation (preparation of research materials) 7 Feb 4th-Feb 11th
Sorting materials according to Fig 1. 15 Feb 11th-March 12th
Research of prior studies on topic 60 March 12th -May 12th
Conducting the particular case study analysis 30 May 12th –June 12
Developing the outcomes of the processes like the impacts and their subsequent efficiency levels 15 June 12th – June 27th
Compiling the constituents of the innovative processes in the specific case studies 10 June 27th –July 7th
Writing of initial draft 20 July 7th –July 27th
Submission of initial draft 5 July 27th-August 1st
Revision and Project report Completion 13 August 1st -14th
The final project will deliver the following:
Comprehensive theoretical information that can be used as a guide for other mega projects looking to assimilate certain innovation processes to solve problems.
The efficiency analysis of the innovation processes.
Case study analysis of innovative processes
project schedule And major activities
step no. Description week 1 week 2 week 3 week 4 week 5 week 6 week 7 week 9 week 10
1 project initiation
2 research of prior case studies
3 issues, information analysis, and revision
4 Interim report 6 Draft report
7 Developing priorities
8 Revision of drafts and correction 9 Completion of project 10 Final project report
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