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Building trust in construction projects

Malik M.A. Khalfan (SCRI Research Centre in the Built and Human Environment Research Institute, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Peter McDermott (SCRI Research Centre in the Built and Human Environment Research Institute, University of Salford, Salford, UK)
Will Swan (SCRI Research Centre in the Built and Human Environment Research Institute, University of Salford, Salford, UK)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 2 October 2007




The objective of this paper is to present different perspectives on building “trust” among supply chain participants working on construction projects.


A case study methodology was adopted; with five construction projects selected as five case studies for the trust in construction project on the basis a selection criteria devised for the research project. Over 40 interviews were conducted with participants operating at different levels in their respective organisations and at different point in the supply chain.


The information provided by the multiple informants was, to a large extent, consistent with much of the academic literature relating to the importance of and barriers to trust. Specifically, the case studies highlighted: what people within the construction industry understand by trust, reliance, and honest professional relationship; the key factors that contribute towards building trust and factors that result into breakdown of trust; and organisational and project related factors that influence trust and relationships among people within the industry.

Research limitations/implications

The findings from this study are limited due to: a small number of case studies undertaken, focused within the North West Region of England, and limited time and resources available. However, the ideas proposed for ways to develop trust in construction projects as seen from project findings have important implications for not only the clients but also for the main contractors and sub‐contractors who need to pay greater attention to build trusting and long‐term relationship as part of an integrated supply chain in order to deliver the continuous demand for services especially from public sector clients.

Practical implications

If more businesses operating in the construction sector gave more thought to the importance of trust in construction projects then this could have a significant impact on contract design and over all procurement strategy. Specifically the repetitive work carried out by the local authorities in the UK, such as school building and maintenance, social housing stock improvement, etc., can be subcontracted to the contractors on a longer term basis resulting into long term supply chain relationship among organisations and cost savings.


The research is among the first attempts in response to Latham report published in 1994, in order to explore the role of trust in construction projects, from the perspective of multiple stakeholders. The paper provides insights into the practical issues that prevent the widespread development of trust within the construction industry, which is a challenge that clearly warrants further attention from academics and practitioners.



Khalfan, M.M.A., McDermott, P. and Swan, W. (2007), "Building trust in construction projects", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 385-391.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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