Construction Performance Measurement: Site Managers in Refurbishment Projects

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: Firms use management accounting, controls and performance measurement to ensure that employee activities are aligned with organizational goals and strategies. Performance is measured at different levels: industry, firm, project and activity. While productivity is a commonly used measure of performance at the industry level, in the construction industry, sustainability is more often used at the firm and project levels. Monitoring resource use in refurbishment projects is desirable from a sustainability and productivity viewpoint. Also, in the context of criticisms levelled at the construction industry for being a major generator of waste, demolition activities in refurbishment are important. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate how construction performance is measured by focusing on refurbishment site managers monitoring and management of resource use.

An initial analysis of the relations between construction industry productivity and measures of construction project performance indicates that what might appear to suggest low levels of productivity growth in official statistics can be explained in part by the limited range of output and input qualities considered. Current measures of productivity in refurbishment projects are limited to simple, area-based key indicators. To obtain a better measure of productivity requires the range of output and input qualities to be extended using data captured from performance measures typically used for projects.

This thesis draws on the data collected in three empirical studies. The first empirical study is based on 8 short, semi-structured interviews. The data in second empirical study was collected through 27 semi-structured interviews. Data collection in the third empirical study involved a pilot questionnaire survey, short semi-structured interviews and, finally, a national questionnaire designed to collect information from refurbishment site managers. To minimize bias related to medium choice, the national questionnaire was distributed by both e-mail and by post in paper format.

Resource use monitoring and management at refurbishment sites includes site managers’ monitoring of resource use and their waste management practices. The literature indicates that site managers' waste management efforts are influenced by several factors, which may be project related, organizational and personal, technical, or related to the industry culture and legislation. The data here show that waste sorting is the only common waste management activity conducted on refurbishment sites. Project size, level of contract detail and specific client demands for waste management are the three main factors associated with waste management efforts. Large projects may benefit from fewer problems related to site space and availability of more extensive services from waste contractors, including advice during project planning. Although the statistical analysis shows that the relation between contract type (traditional/design-build) and waste practices is weak, there is a potential for reducing waste generation by integrating the project design and the detailed planning of refurbishment activities on site. In this context, more efficient information and communication technologies (ICT) for developing and using digital building information models are desirable.

Findings indicate that ICT support for managing resource use on refurbishment sites can be understood mainly as being a case of technology acceptance. Refurbishment site managers’ ICT choices are influenced more by performance expectancy than by effort expectancy. Laptops and traditional pen and paper are the most frequently used media by refurbishment site managers, although they often use tablets in private. Screen size, ease of data entry and information updating are important. Respondents saw little need to link to clients’ ICT systems.

Flexible organizational policies related to environmental sustainability allow managers in project-based firms to respond to projects with different characteristics and limitations and to clients with different requirements and standards. Therefore it is worth to study the dilemma of routinizing employees’ actions in environments requiring flexibility for making decisions such as in large, project-based organizations that deliver business services.