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What is a construction project?

Construction projects are specialist in nature. As a result, they have two unique constraints: complexity, which enables the understanding of the entire project (Steiner 1969), and risk, out of which flow the three common constraints that affect all projects: time, cost and quality.

The construction industry is dynamic and multidisciplinary by nature. Some scholars define construction as a production process (Koskela and Howell 2001) while others propose construction from a complexity perspective (Bestelsen 2004).

The construction industry employs many professionals who represent multiple disciplines. For example, there are construction workers, project managers, construction design management co-coordinators, designers (normally architects and engineers), contract managers, construction managers, commercial managers, planners, quantity surveyors and estimators involved in designing and executing a construction project.

Project management

Owing to the complex nature of their projects, the engineering and construction industries were early to adopt the use of project management. Roberts and Wallace state that a project management structure is useful in a vast range of change situations:

… whether designing, erecting of a new building (changing materials, labour and other resources into a finished building), designing and implementing new systems (such as human resource management or financial systems), or designing and implementing a new strategy for a whole organisation.

(Roberts and Wallace 2002: 8)

Project management has proven to be a key tool for managing change and associated risks.

Your task

Bearing in mind the dynamic and multidisciplinary nature of the construction industry, how would you define the term ‘construction project’? Share your thoughts with your fellow learners.


Bertelsen, S. (2004) ‘Construction Management in a Complexity Perspective’. 1st International SCRI Symposium. held 30-31 March 2004 at University of Salford, UK

Koskela, L. J. and Howell, G. (2001) ‘Reforming Project Management: The Role of Planning Execution and Controlling’. 9th IGLC Conference. held August 2001 at National University of Singapore

Robert, A and Wallace, W. (2002) Project Management. Edinburgh Business School, Pearson, Great Britain

Steiner, G. A. (1969) Top Management Planning (vol. 1). New York: Macmillan

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This article is from the free online course:

Research for Construction Management

Coventry University