The Importance of New Technology for Delay Mitigation in Construction Projects

Samad M E Sepasgozar, Mohamad Ahmadzade Razkenari, Khalegh Barati

  Open Access OPEN ACCESS  Peer Reviewed PEER-REVIEWED

The Importance of New Technology for Delay Mitigation in Construction Projects

Samad M E Sepasgozar1, Mohamad Ahmadzade Razkenari2, Khalegh Barati2,

1Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

2Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

Abstract

Construction technology has a great potential to improve productivity and decrease project duration. Delay happens in many construction projects, although the priority of delay causes is different in various countries due to environmental effects. Delays can lead to considerable negative effects such as lawsuits between owners and contractors, loss of productivity and revenue, and contract termination. This paper presents key sources of construction projects delay in Iran, following a review of publications related to delay. In addition, the paper presents the relationship between new technology and time overrun in those projects. One of the main causes of delay in many projects is that they use an old generation of construction technologies; however, the role of technology adoption in delay is ignored. In order to collect first-hand data to explore the delay sources, experienced project managers of the residential and industrial projects were recruited. Experienced professionals from twenty six companies participated in this study. Seventy-three delay causes were identified in the sample projects, in which 25 factors were related to the new technology restriction. The result of the study assists policy makers and practitioners to understand the actual factors causing delay. The value of the study is that it investigates three main issues such as frequency of occurrence, degree of severity, and importance of each factor. Different than other studies, the paper focuses on technology attributes that may affect the project scheduling and time.

Cite this article:

  • Sepasgozar, Samad M E, Mohamad Ahmadzade Razkenari, and Khalegh Barati. "The Importance of New Technology for Delay Mitigation in Construction Projects." American Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture 3.1 (2015): 15-20.
  • Sepasgozar, S. M. E. , Razkenari, M. A. , & Barati, K. (2015). The Importance of New Technology for Delay Mitigation in Construction Projects. American Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture, 3(1), 15-20.
  • Sepasgozar, Samad M E, Mohamad Ahmadzade Razkenari, and Khalegh Barati. "The Importance of New Technology for Delay Mitigation in Construction Projects." American Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture 3, no. 1 (2015): 15-20.

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1. Introduction

As the construction industry is growing, construction projects are also expanding in size and complexity. In this term, delay has still remained as project managers’ concern. Identifying the main causes of delays in large construction projects is very difficult and often initiates disputes about responsibility for delay. This paper presents the main causes of delay in the industrial construction projects in Iran and recommends that how technology can reduce the risk of time overrun in the projects.

Time overrun is a significant problem in the construction industry (Al-Khalil and Al-Ghafly, 1999b; Shehu et al., 2014). Delays can lead to some negative effects such as lawsuits between project parties, increased costs, loss of productivity and revenue, and in some cases contract termination. Delay and disruption to contractors’ progress are some of major sources of claims and disputes in the construction industry (Braimah and Ndekugri, 2008). According to Bordoli and Baldwin (1998) and the World Bank (1990), the time overrun for 1627 projects completed worldwide varied between 50% and 80% from 1974 and 1988. The problem of delays in the construction industry is a global phenomenon (Sambasivan and Soon, 2007; Kaliba et al., 2009). Stumpf (2000) defines delay as an act or event extending the time required to perform the tasks under a contract. It often appears as additional days of work or as a delayed start or finish of an activity. Even with today’s advanced technology, and professional management systems, construction projects continue to suffer delays and project completion dates still get pushed back (Stumpf, 2000). The question raised is how new technologies can affect the project time and prevent the project overruns.

This research is motivated by an important problem called delay that causes cost overrun and has other impacts on the construction projects. Project managers experience significant delays in many countries around the world. In 2000s, the number of claims submitted to the American Arbitration Association (AAA) reached almost 25% of the 1.7 million claims submitted over the past 74 years (Kassab et al., 2006). In the United Kingdom (U.K.), a report by the National Audit Office, entitled modernizing construction, revealed that 70% of the projects undertaken by government departments and agencies were delivered late. In addition, a recent research by Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) found that nearly 40% of all studied projects had to overrun the contract period (Lowsley and Linnett, 2006). Another official report of the infrastructure and project monitoring division of the ministry of statistics and program implementation in 2004 shows that about 646 central sector projects costing about $50 trillion were approximately 40% behind the project schedule in India (Iyer and Jha, 2006). They had a significant delay ranging from 1 to 252 months.

Table 1. Examples of Delays in Construction Projects

Many studies focused on delay in different projects. The studies are mostly region-based and conducted in different countries, because it is related to the local issues. For example, some of the published studies have investigated in different contexts such as: Egypt (Abd El-Razek et al., 2008); Nigeria (M Dlakwa and F Culpin, 1990; Aibinu and Odeyinka, 2006); Malaysia (Alaghbari et al., 2007; Sambasivan and Soon, 2007); Hong Kong (Chan and Kumaraswamy, 1997); Indonesia (Kaming et al., 1997); Jordan (Al-Momani, 2000; Odeh and Battaineh, 2002; Sweis et al., 2008; Sweis, 2013); Vietnam (Van Thuyet et al., 2007; Le-Hoai et al., 2008); UAE (Faridi and El-Sayegh, 2006; Ruqaishi and Bashir, 2013); Lebanon (Mezher and Tawil, 1998); Saudi Arabia (Al-Khalil and Al-Ghafly, 1999b, 1999a; Assaf and Al-Hejji, 2006; Al-Kharashi and Skitmore, 2009); Thailand (Toor and Ogunlana, 2008); Ghana (Fugar and Agyakwah-Baah, 2010); Kuwait (Koushki et al., 2005). Most of these studies are conducted in developing countries, and applied the same model in different contexts. Examples of major causes are shown in Table 1.

Recent events in the Middle East region coupled with restructuring of economies, the emergence of the World Trade Organization and the rising price of oil are expected to yield an unprecedented growth in construction activities. Consequently, a huge number of large-scale projects are currently under construction. A major concern of the clients is the project delivery. This study intends to discuss delay causes from Iranian profession’s perspective. The literature review shows that most Middle Eastern countries suffer from common causes of delay; however, the rank and frequency of causes are different. The study also focuses on technological causes in order to understand the technology potentials in preventing delay. This study is a step forward to deep understanding of the effect of construction technology in delay. The results of this study can be of immense help to the practitioners such as clients, contractors and consultants and also academicians by providing sources of delay, frequency of occurrence and degree of importance for delay causes.

The paper briefly presents a research study as follow: First, it briefly presents how the research study is conducted. Second, key delay causes are investigated and classified in different categories such as owner, contractors, and consultant. Third, the equations for calculating frequency index and severity index are presented. Then the result of the study is presented. Finally, the conclusion, limitation and future directions are discussed.

2. Research Methodology

Seventy- three (73) causes of delay were identified through the interview and official report. A questionnaire was designed in order to evaluate the frequency of occurrence, severity and importance of the identified causes companies’ information was collected from official published lists. Research questionnaire is divided into two main parts. Part one is related to the participants’ background. Part two includes a list of the potential causes of delay in the construction projects. These causes are initially divided into project, owner, contractor, consultant, design-team, material, equipment, man power (labor) and external factors in order to make a clear questionnaire to the participants. Based on previous studies (Le-Hoai et al., 2008; Marzouk and El-Rasas, 2014), two questions for each factor were asked: 1) what is the frequency of occurrence for each cause? 2) what is the degree of severity of each cause on project delay? The answer for the first question is categorized as “always, often, sometimes and rarely," on 4 to 1 point scale. For the second question similarly was considered as “extreme, great, moderate and little” on 4 to 1 point scale. The point for the leave questions are considered zero.

3. Causes of Delays

Some causes and effects of delays in construction projects can be country-specific. In this research, the major causes of delay will be identified and categorized as the client-related, contractor-related, consultant-related, material-related, labor related, contract-related, contract relationship-related and external factors. There are many reasons why delays occur. For example, construction rework, poor organization, material shortage, equipment failure, change orders, act of God and so on. In addition, delays are often interconnected, making the situation even more complex (Alkass et al., 1996). Frimpong et al. (2003) found that 33 out of a total of 47 projects completed between 1970 and 1999 were delayed while 38 projects were overruns in Ghana. The research data indicated that 75% of the projects exceeded the original project schedule and cost whereas only 25% were completed within the budget and on time. Al-Ghafly (1995) focused on public water and sewage projects and found sixty delay causes. He concluded that delay occurred frequently in medium and large size projects, and considered severe in small projects. There are many important causes of delay related to owner involvement, contractor performance, and the early planning and design of the project. In this study important causes are reported as: financial problems, changes in the design and scope, delay in making decisions and approvals by owner, difficulties in obtaining work permit, and coordination and communication problems.

Noulmanee et al. (1999) investigated causes of delays in highway construction in Thailand, and concluded that delays can be caused by all parties involved in projects. However, they reported that main causes come from an inadequacy of sub-contractors, organization that lacks sufficient resources, incomplete and unclear drawings and deficiencies between consultants and contractors. The study suggested that delay can be minimized by discussions that lead to understanding. investigated causes of delay in 130 public projects in Jordan. The study reveals that main causes of delay were related to designer, user changes, weather, site conditions, late deliveries, economic conditions and increase in quantity. The study suggested that special attention to factors will help industry practitioners in minimizing contract disputes. Delays have a strong relationship with failure and ineffective performance of contractors.

Assaf and Al-Hejji (2006) reported thirteen (13) major causes that related to contractors performance. For example, they explain that difficulties in financing project, improper construction methods implemented, ineffective planning and scheduling of project, poor site management and supervision by contractor are some of the major factors affecting the project duration. discussed the main causes of the project failures in the construction industry in Saudi Arabia by surveying 68 contractors. The study concluded that lack of experience, poor estimation practices, bad decisions in regulating company’s policy, and national slump in the economy are the severe factors. Based on the report and the previous studies, the main causes are summarized and shown in Table 2.

Odeh and Battaineh (2002) investigated 28 construction delay factors. These factors categorized by into the following eight major groups: client-related factors, contractor-related factors, consultant-related factors, material-related factors, labor and equipment- related factors, contract- related factors, contract relationship- related factors, external factors. This categorization is adopted as the basis of the questionnaire for the present study.

Sepasgozar and Shirazi (2008) investigated that the most important causalities for delay in Iranian construction projects are: delay in earth delivery, delay in the delivery of the project design and engineering documents to a contractor, delay in confirmation or approval of the contractor’s work, engineering documentation, change orders, weakness of communication between project parties, delay in materials and building tools delivery or preparation of some products by a contractor, delay in confirmation or payment of on-time inventory and undoing of some financial undertakings by the contractor.

Financial problems have been reported as the reason for a 40.1 percentage of delays in improvement-national projects and a 67.7 percentage of delays in delayed state projects since 2000 to 2004 (Sepasgozar and Shirazi, 2008). In 2006, the financial problems were identified as 38.9 percent, deficit in finance and allocation and deficiency in payment are 16.1 percent, 19.4 percent and 3.4 percent respectively. Weakness of contractors and operational system is 11.1 percent of delay reason in improvement-national projects and 11.3 percent of delay reason improvement-state projects during 2000-2004. In 2006, 8.6 percentage of delay reason is termed as weakness in operational systems. Contractor’s weakness caused 5.7 percentage of delay reason in improvement-national projects and 4.7 of delay reason improvement-state projects during 2000-2004. In 2006, contractor difficulties were 3.6 percentage of delay reason. Also in that year the important reasons in improvement-national projects are unforeseen weather change, flood-water, earthquake and in public natural problems. Delay on attention to claims and additional costs stemmed from primitive delays by contractors.

4. Data Analysis and Result

The data were collected from twenty six construction companies. The data analyzed through the following statistical formulas:

Where:

N is the total number of respondents for each question, a is the integer response value ranging from 1 to 4, and n is the frequency of responses for each integer value.

The importance index of each factor is calculated as follows:

Table 3 shows the most important causes of delay according to the owners, contractors and consultants. The causes are classified in nine various groups. The table shows that the contractor, labor, and external factors are three main factors in the projects, while project-related factors and consultants are of less importance.

Table 3. Ranking of causes by participants

5. Conclusion

This study aimed to investigate main causes of delay in the construction projects. Particularly, the purpose of the study was to understand the priority of causes affecting time and the project duration focusing on technology attributes. Top ten factors were identified as main causes of delay: (1) contractor organization attributes, (2) labor shortness, (3) external factors, (4) material deficiency, (5) design issues, (6) owner attributes, (7) technology restriction, (8) consultant attributes and (9) project attributes. As the result shows, technology restriction is one of the top ten most important factors out of seventy-three affecting delay in construction projects. Most of previous publications investigated overall factors affecting time. However, fewer publications focused on a particular attribute such as technology to measure the exact impact of technology on delay. This study is a step forward to understand how construction technology (new crane, loader, and dozer) restriction may affect the project time.

In particular, participants from contractor companies reported that monthly payment’s difficulties from agencies or owners were the most important cause of delay. While the results show poor contractor management is generally the most important factor. Despite some differences in the viewpoint held by contractors, owners and consultants in this survey, there is a considerable degree of agreement among most of them regarding their ranking of the factors, and pointing that construction technology has an important impact on delay. The overall ranking results indicate that the major ten attributes such as new technology restriction can cause excessive project overruns in developing countries.

The exact role of new construction technologies such as tools, equipment and machinery in the duration of construction projects still remains unknown. Future studies should focus on construction technology attributes. In addition, similar studies should be separately performed in different kinds of construction projects such as: tunneling, bridge, high-rise building and dams.

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