The aim of this research is to study the causes and effects of delays and waste in the construction industry and some of their solutions.
Construction projects have three main phases; conception, design and construction. Being able to complete projects in time is a sign of an efficient industry. Construction time is a measure used as an assessment of the performance of projects. The time used to complete projects is often more than that stipulated in contracts. These extensions in time can be caused by designers, availability or lack thereof of resources, poor performance of parties involved or the economy. Most delays happen in the construction phase where unexpected factors usually manifest themselves for instance; environmental restrictions and unforeseen ground conditions.
Idling and unproductive work causes activity oriented rime wastage. As more time wastage takes place in a number of stages in the project, it becomes more likely that significant delays will be caused. Delays are some of the most common problems dealt with in the construction industry. Projects here are synonymous with massive costs and extended durations with delays impeding the ability of the project to be completed in budget time, high quality and at the client’s satisfaction. This has become more critical considering how narrow the margins are in companies nowadays.
There are some definitions of delay;
- Muhammed (2015) “To make something happen later than expected; to cause something to be performed later than planned; or to not act timely each of these definitions can be describe a delay to an activity of work in a schedule”
- Aibinu A.A (2006) defines it as “a state where the contractor and the project owner together or individually enable the stalling of a project such that it cannot be completed within the agreed contract period”
- Delay could be defined as “the time over run either beyond completion date specified in a contract or beyond the date that the parties agrees upon for delivery of a project. It is projects slipping over their planned schedule and is considered as common problem in construction projects” (Assaf S. a.-H., 2006)
Construction waste could be defined as;
- Ekanayake and Ofori(2004) “Any material part from earth material which needs to be transported elsewhere to the construction sites or used within the construction site itself for the purpose of land filling, incineration, recycling, reusing, or composting rather than the intended specific purpose of the project.”
Delays are any activity that causes the project to be completed later than expected and wastes are any material or resource in excess of what is needed in the project.
Construction is a difficult and unique field with many complexities. Time wastage manifests itself through activities yet the construction management technique and tools are process, as opposed to activity related.
These delays can be due to
- These can be due to delays in contractor payment by the owner or use of unprofessional workers by the contractor
- Improper planning. According to Pourrostam (2011)even before groundbreaking starts, slow decision making, design errors, poor contract and site management and delays in reviewing and approving designs are some of the many factors leading to delays during the planning stage.
- Adverse site conditions can cause delays when poorly managed or when reacted to slowly.
- Inflation and political reasons. In studying construction projects in Indonesia Kaming.P (1997) discovered that cost overruns are heavily detrimental towards the project even more than time overruns. According to the study, material cost increase and wrongful cost estimation influenced this. Political or economic uncertainty makes inflation more likely. For instance, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a sudden and surprise development that has caused upheavals in the employment sector and its current and future macroeconomic effects are difficult to predict.
Wastes are defined as “any inefficiency that results in the use of equipment, materials, labour or capital in larger quantities than those considered as necessary in the construction process.” Formoso (2002). These can be divided into natural and avoidable wastes. In the former, the investment to reduce it is more than the economic benefit from it and vice versa for the latter, material and time wastes being the most important avoidable wastes
ework due to low work quality and idle time for both labor and equipment constitute time waste. This can either be direct time waste or indirect time waste. The former is directly seen in the difference in time it takes to accomplish a task while indirect time waste is the effect of poor planning that over allocates time to a task that can be completed faster. It is also experienced in certain tasks that are linked to others. This waste is currently measured as time (hours, days, weeks), man-hours of work or money
Lean construction techniques aim to maximize value and have been successfully implemented in various projects to reduce non-value adding activities hence time wastage. A pilot study by Al-Sehaimi (2009) supports this.
There are several categories under which delays can be minimized;
Time; specifying a reasonable and realistic duration to execute the project, Scheduling and planning well
Control; getting the approvals needed from the authorities and having a working system to manage the site and supervise.
Administration; improving conditions in the site.
Financial; paying the contractor in a timely manner, ensuring enough sources of finance and improving the flow of cash.
Manpower; employing workers according to their specialties.
This concerns human resource management and includes good communication, having training programs and motivating the workers.
This covers the procedures, knowledge and skills used to accomplish tasks. The following can be done; using monitoring tools and using the latest equipment to improve productivity.
Several studies have tried to understand what causes projects to be behind their planned schedules. Baldwin and Manthei 1971, Sullivan and Harris 1986 and Kaming.et.al (1997) have all conducted studies in the same. They identified changes in design, low quality workmanship and improper planning as the main causes. Past studies also claim that delays could be encouraged by designers, contractors, owners or unforeseen environmental events. MacManus.et.al 1996 concluded that delays are most common in the construction phase but can also begin in the design stage.
Gavilan and Bernold (1994) concluded that wastes in construction can be divided in terms of sources into; design, material handling, procurement, residuals and operations. Meanwhile, Ekanayake and Ofori (2004) grouped the causes into design, material handling, procurement and operations.Ghafourian.et.al (2016) proved that the construction type and size affects waste generation and reduction.
- To find out the most common causes of delays and wastage in construction projects in the UK.
- To research into the techniques being used to combat delays and wastage around the world.
- What effects do delays have on the cost of a construction project?
- How much is the UK affected by delays and wastages compared to other regions?
- What methods could be used to mitigate against delays and wastages?
For the purpose of this literature review, a review of research articles has been done. The keywords being coinstruction delay, causes of delay, wastage and delay in construction projects were used. The research will be limited to developed counries as the results are comparable to conditions in the UK.
Arditi et al (1985) did a survey of contractors and investore public agencies in Turkey to investigate into what causes delays. Having looked at 126 public projects done by contractors, the author found that delay was expirienced on 34.6% of them and that number rises to 43.65% when projects are contracted by public agencies.
Chan and Kumaraswamy (1995)on analyzing building projects in Hong Kong that were undertaken between 1990 and 1993, found that on average, time overruns exceeded 20%, with only 40%, 25% and 35% of government buildings, private sector buildings and civil engineering works being completed within schedule.
Assaf et al. (2006)carried out a questionnaire survey of contractors and consultants in Saudi Arabia to quantify the percentage of delay. For contractors, 76% of them listed a delay between 10 and 30% while 25% of consultants quantified this as being between 30 and 50%.
In Malaysia, Sambasivan and Soon (2007) found that 17.3% of government projects suffered delays exceeding three months and were thus abandoned.
In Canada, a study conducted by Semple on 24 projects and focusing on contractors’ and subcontractors’ claim found that in some projects, delays exceeded 100% of the original duration specified in the contract.
Australia too expirienced delays, with only one eighth of their building projects being completed on time with the time overrun exceeding 40%. This is according to Bromilow. (1994)
In the UK, between 1993 and 1994, time overuns in construction projects undertaken by the government was found to average 23.2%
Eliis and Thomas (2002) while investigating what causes delays in highway projects in the United States of America, noted that time overuns averaged 25% of the duration in the contract for 150 projects.
Ansar et al. (2016) Meanwhile, focused research on 65 projects undertaken in democrasies that are considered rich (Norway, Spain, Sweden,Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, UK and USA) and concluded that the time overuns averaged 42.7% of the schedule.
Hitherto, the articles reviewed have focused on quantifying the amount of delay. I will now look at the causes of delays in select countries.
Marzouk et al. (2008) did a study in Egypt, with a focus on delays related to Engineering. Their study grouped the 22 factors indentified into 4 categories; approval of workshop drawings, design development, project parties’ changes and workshop drawing supervision. According to their study, deviations in the design documents from the employer, slow response from the employer to contractor’s queries, slow preparation pf drawings by the contractor either due to insufficient resources, management, expirience and corrections because of indetified faults and constructability issues in the design documents are just but a few of the most critical factors causing delays.
On studying financial factors encouraging delays in projects in Malaysia. Rahman et al. (2009) Found that unprofessional cash flow management, instability in the financial markey and delayed payments are the major causes.
Prasad K.V and V.Vasugi summarised the cause of delays in developed countries;
Sambasivan and Soon (2007) and Fallahnejad (2013)ranked improper planning above poor site management when reviewing the causes of delay. Sweis et al. (2008) also placed poor planning as the main cause, according to responses from clients and consultants. Colin and Retik (1997) emphasized the importance of a construction schedule in providing a medium to compare and measure time and meaning. It is useful to identidy, prepare and analyze delay claims. Improper planning is again listed by Tumi et al (2009) as the main cause of delay, with ineffective communication, errors in design, insufficient supply, financial problems and slow decision making processes being the other main factors. George Agyekum-Mensah and Andrew David Knight (2017) went further as to rank the causes of delay based on ocurrences.
The table below shows a brief summary of control and mitigation practices recommended by various researchers to control delay;
Olawale and Sun (2010) are of the persusasion that delays are due to poor control of the project. They suggest several methods to be used to control time and reduce delay risks and this include some basic methods such as Gantt Charts that offer a time based chart for project stakeholders. The industry could also use the Critital Path Methods, which factors in the varied elements of work necessary for scheduled project completion. There is also the Technique Performance Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) and Precedence Network Diagram (PND) as well as the Element Trend Analysis/Line Of Balance. There are also softwares such as Microsoft Project and Primavera. All these tools help the contractor to control the time and optimize their success.
According to Nguyen et al. (2004)methods that can be employed to minimize delays are; having competent project managers, frequent progress meetings, accurate initial cost estimated, accurate initial time estimates and awarding bids to expirienced consultants and contractors. Aibinu and Jagboro (2002) noted two methods to minimize time overuns; speeding up site activities and allowing for contingencies.The contractor could hire additional workers to speed up the project and the client should allow the contractor some stand by time in the case of unforseen events such as accidents and adverse weather conditions. Koushki et al. (2005)) argues that the minimization of time delays and cost overuns would occur when it is verified that there is enough financial resource to complete the project. It should also be ensured that there is timely delivery of materials.
The effects of delays can be ranked as
- Time overun
This means a contractor could not carry out the work within the contract period. Delays can either be excusable or inexcusable. If delays are due to sudden weather events, they are excusableand the contractor is entitled to claim an extension of time. If delays are due to the contractor’s own fault they are required to pay liquidated damages
- Cost overun
Cost overuns are related to time overuns in that once a project is not completed in time, the cost of the project over budget will also be affected. These mostly happen due to in accuracies in cost estimates by the contractor.
Project delays cause disputes between project stakeholders (client, contractors and consultants). Once these happen, the relevant parties go through a mediator who tries to resolve the issue but if one of the parties disagrees with the decision of the mediator, they appeal it to an arbitrator and if both parties agree with the decision, the one at fault takes responsibility and pays for the damages for delaying the project.
Decisions by the mediator are appealed to an arbitrator and if upheld and agreed by both parties, the guilty one pays for damages caused by project delays. This decision can still be appealed in litigation if one party feels agrieved.
In some delayed projects, the relevant parties still do not accept the ruling by the arbitrator. They can appeal the result in ltigation which is a dispute resolution court. The parties involved have a trial by a judge or jury and can appeal the ruling again with new evidence, if not, the guilty party takes responsibility and caters for the loss.
- Total abandonment
A project can be abandoned when the client of contractor face financial difficulties due to cost overuns brought about by delays in the project. This will affect all parties invested financially in the project.
Source Aibinu ad Jagboro (2002)
According to Abdul-Rahmen et al. (2009)the effects of delays can be assessed according to their national impact on economy and employment, on an industrial scale in terms of productivity and profitability and on a project scale in terms of dissatisfaction of clients, low profit margins and financial difficulties encountered by the contractor, M. Haseeb (2011) also insists that at the project scale, delays cause losses in income for both the contractor and the employer. The contractor expiriences high cost due to prolonged working times and rising labour costs. Fugar and Agakwah-Baah (2010) support this and argue that delays cause disputes, litigation and cost overuns. All these cause loss and hardship to the employer, with the contractor suffering additional costs due to standby costs for machinery, equipmeny and workers. Delays lead to an unwillingness to communicate and this interfers with the project outcome, leading to conflicts and disputes. She suggests that this is vital in an industry already fragmented by the competiveness of tendering and the contractual nature of projects.
To reduce wastages for minor construction projects, the team should be task with identifying top options to avoid, reduce, reuse and recover waste and use more recycled materials in construction. Cost effective design options should also be considered. These are, but not limited to, chosing to refurbish instead of replacing structures, avoiding unnecessary excavations, reusing demolition and construction materials available on the site, chosing pre-fabricated materials, reducing wastage allowance on major materials eg having better storage for materials, sticking to a just-in-time delivery schedule and adjusting floor to ceiling heights to minimize the expected wastage of plaster boards and finally selecting major materials with a higher recycled content. A waste data reporting sheet could also be used to keep track of materials being wasted and make proper adjustments.
Wastes can aslo be reduced by minimising excavation waste and demolition, using off-site construction and identifying techniques to reduce the rate of wastage on construction materials for instance reducing the cut-off requirement and clearly defining actions in SWMP that prevent damage to materials. Care should also be taken to select materials that have low maintenance and longer service lives. During demolition, wastage can be reduced by reusing or recycling materials after demolition. This reduces the need to remove them from the site. The percentage of recycled materials in the new build should also be increased.
The features and challenges faced in construction projects vary from one project to another. For hydropower and wind turbine projects, their sites are in remote locations and thus face the problem of receiving an uninterrupted supply of materials. Highway projects face land acquisition challenges while projects involving complex designs face the challenge of finding skilled labour and meeting the strict safety guidelines eg nuclear power projects. Information from most of the previous research has been generic without any reference to the type of project.
Delays and wastages in specific types of projects need to be identified to enable the invention of specialized solutions by relevant agencies.
Previous delay studies have neglected to look at the type of contract under which the project is implemented. Several studies have indicated that the main causes of delay are; changes in design by clients, changes during the construction process and client initiated variations. All these are prevented by the design and build contract by placing the responsibility of designing on the contractor. Research on causes on delays for the different types of projects need to be done which will enable the appropriate reccomendation of contracts for specfic projects.
Despite the fact that many studies have brought out the causes of delays, they have often ended without providing any significant, productive solutions to alleviate the problem.too many of the recommendations are very generic and lack vigor. Most existing studies stopped at the identification of the influencing factors, but did not progress on to finding ways of mitigating the identified problems
Almost all of the research is based on statistical analysis of questionnaire responses. These can sometimes have biased opinions as each party seeks to protect themselves while blaming the others. Research work should be done involving the review of Extension of Time (EOC) documents submitted by contractors and arbitration awards by courts. Studies integrating the two methods should also be undertaken to minimize the effect of biases.
A likert scale questionnaire was used to get and andalyze responses from various key stakeholders in the construction industry in the UK. These questionnaires were emailed to the appropriare persons so as to reach a wider sample group. The responses were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 as follows;
1 = strongly diagree, 2 = Disagree 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree
This was the format of the questionnaire
For each of the questions, circle the response that best describes your expirience, opinion or position,
|Strongly DIsagree||Disagree||Neutral||Agree||Strongly Agree|
|It causes no harm to take on jobs I’m not fullly expirienced in.||1||2||3||4||5|
|Clients usually pay me on time||1||2||3||4||5|
|I expirience delays in all my projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|Delays usually exceed 50% of the project duration||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am satisfied with how often clients and egineers change the design specifications during construction||1||2||3||4||5|
|I prefer design and build contracts||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am satisfied with how long clients, engineers and architects take to respond to my queries||1||2||3||4||5|
|Weather conditions in the UK are a major cause of delays in my projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|The unpredictability of ground conditions have been a huge reason for delays in my projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|I religously follow the construction schedule always||1||2||3||4||5|
|My site management skills have never been a cause for delays in my projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|I often make many construction mistakes that significatly delay the project||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am always promptly paid by the client||1||2||3||4||5|
|Grant charts have been useful in my project monitoring||1||2||3||4||5|
|Microsoft Project is the best project management tool I use||1||2||3||4||5|
|Hiring additional workers will help reduce delays||1||2||3||4||5|
|Materials are aways delivered to my sites on time||1||2||3||4||5|
|Delays ususally increase the cost of the project by 50%||1||2||3||4||5|
|I trust the conflict resolution processfor delays that is in place today||1||2||3||4||5|
|Delays have damaged my reputation in the industry||1||2||3||4||5|
|Most of my projects have been completely abandoned because of cost overuns||1||2||3||4||5|
|The changes in econmic situartion of the country has greatly affected my ability to procure materials||1||2||3||4||5|
|Off site construction to reduce wastes is practical||1||2||3||4||5|
|Minimizing excavation waste is cost effective||1||2||3||4||5|
|Delays in my projects have been my own fault||1||2||3||4||5|
|Consultants( engineers and architects)|
|I expirience delays in more than 50% of my projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|I constantly make design changes even during construction||1||2||3||4||5|
|The Technique Performance Evaluation review is the best tool to monitor project progress||1||2||3||4||5|
|Ms Project is the best project management software||1||2||3||4||5|
|Contracts are always awarded to the most qualified contractor||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am satisfied with the level of planning I undertake before every project begins||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am satisfied with the time it takes to seek and get approval for projects||1||2||3||4||5|
|The project management tools and techniques I use are sufficient||1||2||3||4||5|
|The communication channels between the client, contractor and I are sufficiently smooth||1||2||3||4||5|
|I am satisfied with the time I take to analyze, approve and authorize changes in the project during construction||1||2||3||4||5|
|It is possible to plan and account for all unfavourable site conditions||1||2||3||4||5|
|It is possible to plan and account for all changes in weather conditions||1||2||3||4||5|
|Delays in my projects have been because of my failings
|participant number ˅||It causes no harm to take on jobs I’m not fully experienced in.||Clients usually pay me on time||I experience delays in all my projects||Delays usually exceed 50% of the project duration||Weather conditions in the UK are a major cause of delays in my projects||Delays usually increase the cost of the project by 50%||I experience delays in more than 50% of my projects||The Technique Performance Evaluation review is the best tool to monitor project progress||The communication channels between the client, contractor and I are sufficiently smooth||It is possible to plan and account for all unfavorable site conditions||Delays in my projects have been because of my failings||Count||Sum Q1 to Q11||Mean|
|Sum Of each Participant||82||70||81||80||74||87||94||84||88||76||76|
FIGURE 1 CONTRACTORS
FIGURE 2 Consultants (engineers and architects)
For the questionnaire responses from the contractors, a majority of the questions have a mean of 2.7, implying a mainly neutral opinion. The same could be said for the consultants, bar payments being made on time. However, the stacked bar chart provides a better representation of the responses.
An overwhelming 60% of consultants deny this (disagree and strongly disagree), with only 39% admitting to being the cause of delays. While this could be taken to imply the competency of consultants, it could also be because of the inability of most people to take blame for their actions.
The responses to this question are not skewed heavily towards any one particular direction. About 54% of respondents expressed some disagreement towards this. The ability to plan ahead and mitigate all unfavorable site conditions depends on both the skills of the consultant and the unpredictability of weather and ground conditions common to that site. (Barrow, 2013) cites the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the northern altitude and the warming of waters around the land by the Gulf Stream as the influences of weather in the UK. The variability in these factors depends on the proximity of sites to the causal forces. It thus stands to reason that some areas will experience a higher variation in their weather conditions.
Approximately 65% of consultants gave a positive feedback on this question (agree and strongly agree). This indicates the existence of good communication guidelines and the adherence to these guidelines by the key construction stakeholders.
The opinions on this are split almost halfway. Performance Evaluation is only one of the many project monitoring tools being used all around the world today. The exponential improvements in technology mean that there is a wide range of options concerning project managing tools.
7 of the 26 respondents strongly agreed and of the remaining, 7 disagreed with this. These results, as with those of site conditions, also seem to depend on other factors. In this case, the availability of resources and prompt delivery of materials both before and during the project, whether any unforeseen conditions majorly impact the project and the ability of key stakeholders to handle any arising issues that might disrupt the project timeline. Given these variables, some contractors might have been unlucky enough to experience their negative counterparts in all their projects.
An overwhelming 30% of respondents strongly agreed with this. It serves to highlight the detrimental effects of delays towards project costs.
Despite articles by (Czerski, 2012) on the unpredictability of weather in the UK, once again the aspect of location crops up. Some area would experience as high a variability as one to cause significant project delays while others would be oblivious to such conditions. This explains the 50-50 distribution of responses between those affected and those not affected.
11 of the respondents agreed and strongly disagreed while 11 more either disagreed or strongly disagreed. Because the nature of delays and the magnitude of projects are not factored into this, this result does not lend itself to extensive interpretation.
14 contractors out of the 26 respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with this. This indicates the prevalence of delayed payments in UK construction projects.
The responses on this are also split at the middle. This could be a common practice in a contractor’s world as he/she aims to gain more knowledge. Some contractors are taking the proverbial “baby steps” towards expanding their knowledge and experience base. This means that they do not venture too far away from their niche hence the opinion that it causes no harm. On the other hand, some are taking giant leaps into uncharted territories and this has the effect of exposing their inadequacy.
Prevalence of delays in the UK
The results of this research seem to indicate that delays are commonplace in construction projects. About half of the contractors experience delays in all their projects with approximately 45% of those questioned experiencing it in more than 50% of their projects. These results are in agreement with those of (A survey on the costs and reasons for delays in construction industry projects) which details a survey of 61 respondents representing various players in the construction industry whereby only 9 of them said that they had yet to experience delays in any of their projects.
Cost of delays
An analysis of the Likert scale questionnaire results revealed the shared opinion of construction stakeholders on the negative financial impacts of delays. These findings suggest that delays can cost companies up to 50% more than the previously estimated cost. However, these financial impacts can be mitigated by contract terms and insurance covers. This shows how deep this problem cuts the industry, potentially impacting profitability and consequently, the economic strength of the country.
A case of delayed payments
This research shows that delays in payment are a significantly common problem in the UK. (Ramachandra, 2013) Shows that this does not occur only in the UK. Delays in payments in New Zealand cause considerable costs and creates considerable difficulties for the parties involved. The effects of late payments, according to (Planning and Construction News, 2020) range from insolvency, a dip in productivity and growth to mental health issues for workers.
A case of unpredictability in UK weather conditions
Weather in the UK is widely known to be unpredictable. There is an increased need to account for weather related downtime as much as mitigation strategies through building and material design. The effect of weather on cost is seen on the 2bn that the “Beast from the East” cost construction in 2018. (Climate experts help construction prepare for unpredictable weather, 2020)
Project Management tools in use
The UK, a first world country, has the benefit of having continual technological leaps being constantly incorporated into industries. The construction sector is no exception. Owing to this, a number of project management tools exist and are in use; Gantt Chart, logic Network, PERT chart, Product Breakdown Structure, Work Breakdown Structure. These are incorporated into a plethora of softwares for instance GranttPRO, BIM 360, Acculynx, Jonas Premier, Procore, Coonstruct, Buildertrend, Knowify, PlanGrid and Microsoft Project. With most of these being highly functional, no particular one would stand out from the rest as the best.
Communication within the Construction Industry
The UK follows the BRE guidance on construction site communication. Adherence to these guidelines has been mostly religious, enabling the efficient flow of information among key stakeholders.
The research was a success as it shed some light on a number of issues closely related to delays in construction. I was able to know the cause of delays, its extent, effects and some of the tools being used to enable sound construction project management.
This research was not extensive enough. Further study needs to be done into;
- The unpredictability in weather conditions and their effects on delays on specific locations within the UK.
- The magnitude of projects is related to the capital outlay and consequently, the financial muscle of a client in terms of ensuring prompt payments to both the contractor and consultant. The effect of delayed payments need to be segregated into categories depending on the size of the project.