A framework for collaborative costing in the UK construction industry

Ahmed, Sa'id (2019) A framework for collaborative costing in the UK construction industry. (PhD thesis), Nottingham Trent University, .


Although collaboration has been recognized as a necessary component of success in the modern construction industry, concepts like building information modelling (BIM), integrated project delivery (IPD) and target value design (TVD) are still emerging in the construction landscape. However, collaborative working (CW) is reported to be fading within the UK construction industry, largely because of commercial behaviours. These behaviours are reinforced by the dominant procurement arrangements and ‘institutional’ factors, which surrounds project delivery approach in construction. Consequently, construction clients and supply chain organizations struggles to realize the full benefits of CW. In fact, these commercial behaviours create costing approaches marred with irregularities and uncertainties with little shared understanding amongst stakeholders. Invariably, the prevailing approach mainly follows the RIBA Plan of Work, which is discrete, sequential and favours competitive tendering. This guides stakeholders within a narrow view to consider costing and design activities as separate functions. Conversely, the integration of design and construction creates opportunity for commercial actors to be more deeply included in CW approaches thus removing a major barrier to the performance improvements demanded in successive UK government reports. In view of these problems, this study was undertaken to shed light on the current costing practice and CW in the UK construction industry, with the intention of developing a framework that would guide stakeholders to cost projects collaboratively. Qualitative research design strategy was adopted, which gathered data from construction and infrastructure sectors in the UK. A total of 50 interviews was conducted with three case study examination. The study found attributes like target costing, optioneering, and integrated value engineering, as core constituents of costing in collaboration. In light of this, the study proposed the notion of ‘costing collaboratively’ (CC), as a process that integrates stakeholders (upstream and downstream) around a wider scheme budget, creating a sense of ownership which drives positive behaviours to achieve desired cost outcomes. However, the analysis showed that the current practice differs from this description and does not support wider CW, particularly within commercial activities. Although, the findings revealed some progress, and glimpses of CW emerging from multidisciplinary setting, however, costing process is still driven by price, and the limited understanding continues to affect the wider practice of collaboration in the UK construction industry. The implication of this to industry, and practice is that costing approaches need to shift from the traditional standpoint to a more social-based approach, incorporating commercial actors, to heighten ‘flow’ and ‘value’ perspectives for the smooth running of production activities. This is primarily because the findings revealed that, without properly aligning commercial actors and their interests in a ‘collaborative production’ fashion, most of the barriers found to unsettle CW would remain, regardless of the environment. Thus, whilst this implication remains, efforts to sustain an integrated practice and other construction reforms in the UK will continue to stall. Hence, the study developed a simple but effective framework to guide stakeholders through the necessary steps to costs projects collaboratively in practice.

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