Model for developing trust on US construction projects

Raja R.A. Issa (Rinker School of Construction Management, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
Svetlana Olbina (Department of Construction Management, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)
Dino Zuppa (Department of Construction, Canadian National Research Council, Ottawa, Canada)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Publication date: 5 February 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors found on US construction projects that are perceived by contractors to strengthen or weaken trust between contracting stakeholders and to develop a framework for evaluating these relationships.

Design/methodology/approach

A comprehensive framework containing a number of factors (54) that could impact trust on construction projects was first developed. A survey questionnaire was then developed and administered via phone to contractors selected from the Engineering News Record top 400 US construction companies. The survey findings were then used to develop a trust model and case studies were used to validate and revise the trust model.

Findings

A trust model is developed that helps large US contractors measure and improve trust with other stakeholders on their projects.

Practical implications

Large US contractors are now provided with a tool not previously available to help them measure and improve trust between the different contracting parties on construction projects which can help them decrease project time and costs, and improve project results.

Originality/value

The proposed trust model adds a number of different dimensions to the existing trust models found in the literature and as such improves the contractor’s ability to foster and enhance trust on a US construction project.

Keywords

Citation

Issa, R., Olbina, S. and Zuppa, D. (2018), "Model for developing trust on US construction projects", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 5-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/BEPAM-03-2017-0017

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


1. Introduction

The US construction industry is facing a number of challenges related to low productivity rates, uncertain profits and low adoption rates of new technologies (Sveikauskas et al., 2014). Trust between contracting parties on construction projects is viewed as an important strategy to address these and other problems (Russell et al., 2007). Trust develops differently in a variety of contexts and the roles and functions it plays differ as well. Many existing trust models discussed in construction literature do not consider the unique context of the US construction industry. Thus, the aim of this research is the development of a trust model that would help contractors improve trust between contracting stakeholders on US construction projects.

In the first research phase a comprehensive trust framework containing a number of factors that can impact trust on construction projects is developed and refined. In the second phase the framework is used to develop a survey questionnaire which is then administered via phone to contractors selected from the Engineering News Record (ENR) top 400 US construction companies. In the third phase, the survey findings are used to develop a trust model. The model incorporates a set of prioritized factors found on construction projects that the respondents have linked to strengthening or weakening trust. In the fourth phase, the trust model was validated using case studies. In the fifth phase, the trust model was revised based on the case study results. An analysis comparing the trust model with other existing trust models was also conducted.

The main contribution of this research is the development of a trust model that is intended to assist US contractors in identifying the factors found on construction projects that strengthen or weaken trust between stakeholders as well as developing a framework for evaluating trust. The trust model adds a number of different dimensions to existing trust models and can be used by contractors to determine how to strengthen trust between contracting parties on US construction projects, help decrease project duration and costs, and improve project results.

2. Background

A meta-analysis of previous research offers various definitions of trust such as vulnerability, risk, interdependence, subjective psychological state of mind (Lewicki et al., 2006), positive expectations, and confidence (Smyth and Edkins, 2007). Trust is imperative in building successful teams, adopting new technologies, reducing costs and improving the bottom line of construction projects (Lloyd-Walker et al., 2014; Cheng et al., 2015).

Construction research lags behind other fields on how trust building (human dimension) skills impact the success (profit, costs, schedule, quality, and safety) of construction projects. The importance of improving leadership, communication, and trust building skills to complement and support technical skills has been emphasized by Russell et al. (2007). Others have stressed the importance of using the combination of advanced technology and trust based relationships (Yeung et al., 2009). Turner and Muller (2005) found that the impacts of the factors leading to strong trust specific to construction projects have not been researched to the same degree as in other industries. Most recent research on trust in the construction industry focused on the Asian, Australian, Canadian, and African regions (Rahman and Kumaraswamy, 2011; Lloyd-Walker et al., 2014; Chalker and Loosemore, 2016; Pinto et al., 2009). Hence, there is a need to evaluate trust theories in the context of the US construction industry (Zuppa et al., 2016) and to develop US specific construction trust models.

2.1 Trust frameworks and models

Yeung et al. (2009) researched relationship-based approaches to run construction projects using a Delphi survey technique to formulate a model to assess relationship-based construction projects in Australia. They determined eight key performance indicators (KPIs) for evaluating the success of relationship-based projects including: client’s satisfaction, cost, quality, environmental, time, effective communications, safety, trust and respect, and innovation and improvement of trust. The framework incorporated both objective (e.g. time and dispute occurrence) and subjective measures (e.g. quality and effective communications) addressing the technical and behavioral aspects of trust.

Pinto et al. (2009) investigated the impact of trust between contractors and owners on 44 large construction projects in Northwest Canada. They tested three main antecedents of trust: integrity, competency and intuition, and found that trust has different meanings for contractors and owners, different impacts on satisfaction with the working relationship between the parties and on project success. They found that different bases of trust (integrity, competence and intuitive) are valued differently by different stakeholders.

Wong et al. (2008) developed a framework for trust in construction contracting for projects in Hong Kong. Three different forms of trust were categorized: system-based; cognitive-based; and affect-based. The empirical results showed that all three forms were of equal importance and mutually dependent for building trust.

Jin and Ling (2005a) developed a framework aimed at fostering trust between contracting parties on construction projects in China using data collected from interviews with construction professionals. The results showed that relationships between contracting parties and inherent risk changed with each stage of construction resulting in the need for different trust fostering tools.

Ding and Ng (2010) developed a trust model and found that design team managers in China should enhance the social interactions between team members. They suggested that the managers should give guidance to the design team members about the correct attitude on work so that the level of interpersonal trust can be improved and team performance and knowledge sharing can be enhanced.

Girmscheid and Brockmann (2010) developed a model of trust in international construction joint ventures and found a special type of trust (necessitated trust) that is extended to everyone even without prior knowledge. They determined that trust is a “most important success factor” in international construction joint ventures.

Yiu and Lai (2009) identified the trust-building tactics used by construction mediators in Hong Kong and examined the efficacy of these tactics with respect to their outcomes. They found that Sloan’s (1998) model seemed to have low efficacy in developing trust among disputing parties.

Previous research determined that trust improves project performance, and relationships, improves cooperation, minimizes perceived risk, improves communication, helps build teams and minimizes conflicts (Zuppa et al., 2016). Smyth et al. (2010) reasoned that trust helped in creating greater probability and certainty on projects, which helped in building operational confidence. Smyth and Edkins (2007) claimed that trust has a strong positive effect on the strength of inter-organizational relationships and consequently on project success.

Maurer (2010) found that trust between the partners involved in an inter-organizational project positively impacts obtaining knowledge from the outside project partners. Cheng et al. (2015) studied integrated project delivery on 59 US projects and found that they all met the behavioral principles of mutual respect and trust, willingness to collaborate and open communication. Lloyd-Walker et al. (2014) concluded that in Australasia the project alliance agreement and the associated joint and equal responsibility and risk led to the development of a no-blame culture, encouraged collaboration trust and knowledge sharing and thus supported innovation.

According to Zuppa et al. (2016) trust is one of the most frequently cited success factor for team building in construction partnering. Wong et al. (2005) noted that contractors could initiate trust by performing competently and communicating effectively with their clients. Mutual trust was the top critical success factor in the case of strategic alliances between foreign contractors and design institutes (Xu et al., 2005) and the third most important factor for facilitating relational contracting (Rahman and Kumaraswamy, 2008).

3. Research methodology

This research was conducted in five phases (Figure 1). In Phase 1, an initial framework for the trust process was developed based on the extensive literature review. This framework helped develop questions that were used in the survey conducted in Phase 2. A survey was conducted via telephone with ENR top 400 US contractors in order to identify the factors in the proposed framework that strengthen or weaken trust on construction projects as well as factors that require trust. Results collected from the 66 respondents were analyzed using various statistical methods (descriptive statistics, χ2 for goodness-of-fit test and χ2-test for independence). In Phase 3, a preliminary trust model was developed based on the survey findings, while in Phase 4 case studies were conducted to validate the trust model. Based on the analysis of the case study results, the preliminary trust model was revised in order to develop the final revised proposed trust model in Phase 5.

4. Results

4.1 Development of initial framework for the trust process (Phase 1)

Trust is a multi-faceted process with a number of different components and stages. Much of the trust-related literature stems from the fields of psychology, management, marketing and sociology. The framework shown in Figure 2 was the result of an extensive literature review and is comprised of four distinct phases, each one building on the other.

4.1.1 Trust phases

4.1.1.1 Orientation phase

The orientation phase assesses the initial risk associated with the trust process. The components of the orientation phase are filtered by the subjective and hierarchical perception of the trustor. The need for trust is followed by the identification of the trustee, the determination of desired outcome, a review of the current relationship, and an assessment of the existing trust systems. The major questions asked during the orientation phase are also shown in Figure 2. If the orientation phase of the trust process results in a determination of acceptable risk, the trust process progresses to the evaluation phase. If the orientation phase results in a determination of unacceptable risk, the trust process remains in the orientation phase until the risk becomes acceptable.

4.1.1.2 Evaluation phase

Before a trustor engages in trusting action, a determination of the trustworthiness of the trustee is completed. Mayer et al. (1995) conducted an extensive review of trust antecedents and found that benevolence, ability and integrity were cited frequently as antecedents of trustworthiness. A trustor’s disposition to trust can be one of the most important factors leading to trusting action in certain environments (Yee et al., 2015).

The alignment of personal interests, values and needs of the parties involved in the trust relationship is at the core of the trust building process (Carson et al., 2003). Gambetta (1988) explained that the problem of trust was essentially one of communication with the goal of aligning interests, values and needs. The ability to communicate effectively by learning and reading each party’s interests and behaviors increases the potential of trusting action (Smyth and Edkins, 2007).

The intention to trust is different from engaging in trusting action. The trustor could have established a firm intention to trust, but still not engage in trusting action (Lewicki et al., 2006). The intention to trust is based on the information gathered to date. If the perceived vulnerabilities and risks are tolerable and the payoffs are worthwhile, the intention to trust or the willingness to take risks manifests itself (Dietz and Den Hartog, 2006).

4.1.1.3 Action phase

The action phase is focused on risk taking and engaging in trusting action. The trustor uses the expectations and outcomes defined in the orientation phase to evaluate the outcome of their trusting action. If the outcomes match the expectations, trust is strengthened and the exchange based on trust will continue otherwise trusting action will be restrained.

Once the need for trust is established within the exchange relationship, the role of the trustor and the trustee becomes evident. A trustor, a trustee or both could take on the role of an individual, employee, manager, customer, group, department, organization, etc. These trustors and trustees could be within or between organizations, teams or groups. Additionally, a party could be both the trustor and the trustee simultaneously depending on the context (Lewicki et al., 2006). For instance, on a construction site a contractor could act as the trustor of sub-contractors but the trustee of the owner and there may be a large number and combination of different trustors and trustees.

4.1.1.4 Outcome phase

Using the expectations and outcomes defined in the orientation phase, the trustor evaluates the outcome of his trusting action. On a high level, if the outcomes match the expectations trust is strengthened and the exchange based on trust will continue. If the opposite occurs trust will erode and the trusting action will be refrained (Rousseau et al., 1998). The intention behind the trust violation has a strong impact on whether trust erodes and distrust increases. Trust erodes more when the trustee is perceived as “not willing” rather than “not able” to fulfill the trustor’s expectations (Elangovan et al., 2007).

Vangen and Huxham (2003) discussed the cyclical trust building loop for collaboration. Trust builds on trust in an upwardly cycle or spiral while facilitating collaboration and distrust builds on distrust with a downwardly spiral while disempowering collaboration.

4.2 Survey results (Phase 2)

In Phase 2, a survey was conducted that asked the respondents, who all represented contractor perspectives, to use a five-point Likert scale to rate trust factors in terms of their importance to building trust among contracting parties in the pre-construction, design, procurement, construction, and close out phases of a project. The responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics, χ2 for goodness-of-fit test, and the χ2 test for independence. The results of the survey were used to develop a trust model.

4.2.1 Trust factor ranking

The 54 trust factors used were tested through a survey questionnaire which asked each respondent to evaluate each trust factor based on its relationship to building trust among contracting parties using a five-point Likert scale, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 strongly agree with the statement. The trust factors were grouped into nine categories that included: communication method, document type, trustworthiness, KPIs, stakeholder, contract type, other construction-related factors (such as pre-construction, BIM, value engineering occurring in preconstruction and design phases), change factors occurring in construction phase and management (Figure 3). The average scores of the responses were used to rank the trust factors into the nine categories.

The trustworthy category tested a number of factors. The most preferred factors by the respondents in terms of trustworthiness on construction projects was being paid on time (4.83) followed by reliability (4.82), competence (4.79), collaborating effectively (4.64), not being litigious (4.61), minimizing risk (4.45), having similar values (4.41), being caring (4.27), familiarity (4.27), having similar skills (3.35), similar experience (2.94), and socializing (2.35). In terms of working with stakeholders, the respondents preferred working with owners or owner’s representatives (4.50) followed by subcontractors (4.08), designers (3.68), suppliers or vendors (3.50) and construction managers (3.08). Each KPI (quality (4.84), schedule (4.82), safety (4.81), profit (4.79), cost (4.78), and productivity (4.76)) was ranked at almost the same level indicating that the perceived importance of each in fostering trust on construction projects was almost the same. Similarly, each contract type (cost-plus fixed fee (3.87), unit price (3.74), and lump sum (3.66)) was ranked at the same level without any of them being clearly preferred in relation to trust, which indicates that trust is important for all contract types. In the management category trust was perceived to enhance communication (4.55), team building (4.30), leadership (4.26), information sharing (4.12), and minimizing claims (4.02).

4.2.2 Trust factors impact

The χ2 goodness of fit test was used to identify significant differences in perceptions of each factor’s impact on trust on a construction project as well as to categorize the factors that were included in the trust model into the factors that strengthen trust, factors that weaken trust and factors that require higher level of trust (Figure 4; Columns 1, 2, and 4).

In the communication method category, face-to-face communication strengthens trust while communicating by the use of a project website, BIM, video conferencing and e-mail weakens trust. In the document type category, using electronic documents, digital pictures and videos, electronic schedules and estimates, complete contract documents and a signed contract was perceived to strengthen trust. In the trustworthiness category, the following factors were perceived to strengthen trust: familiarity, caring, having similar values, minimizing risk, not being litigious, collaborating effectively, being competent, reliable and paying on time. Socializing outside of work and having similar level of experience were perceived to weaken trust. In the stakeholder category, working with the construction manager is perceived to weaken trust while working with a sub-contractor or owner/owner’s representative was perceived to strengthen trust. All of the KPIs were perceived to strengthen trust between contracting parties on construction projects. Regarding the type of construction project contract, the cost-plus fixed fee contract type was perceived to strengthen trust. Factors such as value engineering, constructability reviews, and effective negotiation were perceived to require trust while a request for information that is completed in a timely and adequate manner was perceived to strengthen trust. Moreover, the inspection of a corrective change order by a neutral third party and the use of change orders in the magnitude of greater than 10 percent of the initial project cost were perceived to weaken trust. Each management factor was perceived to require trust.

4.2.3 Trust factors association with demographics characterusics of the respondents

The χ2 test for independence was used to explore associations between the 54 trust factors and the survey respondents’ demographic characteristics. It identified eight significant relationships at the 0.05 level of significance. The years of work experience of the survey respondent was significantly associated with communicating using BIM, documentation through a project website, working with construction managers and using a constructability review in the design phase of a construction project. More specifically, it is likely that individuals having 20 or more years of experience in the construction industry are less trusting of communicating through BIM, receiving documentation from a project website, working with construction managers and participating in constructability reviews (Figure 3; Column 3).

4.3 Preliminary trust model (Phase 3)

A preliminary trust model is developed incorporating the survey findings shown in Section 4.2 Survey Results. Figure 3 shows the trust factors that were statistically tested for inclusion in the trust model. Figure 4 lists these trust factors categorized, as a result of these statistical tests, as strengthening trust factors, weakening trust factors, associative (related) trust factors and factors that require higher levels of trust.

Figure 5 shows the preliminary trust model developed from contractor perspectives for contracting parties on construction projects. Stage 1 was added to the categories defined in Figure 4, because if one does not start with trust, the probability of having problems on a project increases. This stage acknowledges the importance of having trust throughout all the phases of construction projects. The second stage of the model identifies areas that require higher levels of trust. The third stage of the model utilizes the factors that strengthen trust. The fourth stage of model is used to scan the related factors and identify how they can be used to strengthen trust. The fifth and last stage of the model addresses the factors that weaken trust.

4.4 Preliminary trust model validation (Phase 4)

The validation case studies were designed and completed based on the general parameters set out in Yin (2003) and the requirements and guidelines derived by Taylor et al. (2010) for construction engineering and management case studies. The case studies used to validate the preliminary trust model (see Figure 5) were developed based on the preceding statistical analysis of the survey results and were set up similarly to the examples found in the literature (Jin and Ling, 2005a, b). The nine companies used in the case studies were randomly selected from among the remaining 334 construction companies in the ENR top 400 list that were not represented by the respondents to the survey. The case study participants were interviewed over the telephone using the survey questionnaire as a starting point.

The design of the validation case studies included consistent units of analysis and criteria for interpreting the findings. The conversations were guided rather than structured and followed an open-ended nature. The goal of the case studies was to explain the survey findings (Yin, 2003). The preliminary trust model was validated and revised based on the case study findings.

Table I shows the demographics of the nine randomly selected case study respondents. The respondents were asked the same questions (Table II) as those asked for the previously described survey on trust parameters in the research Phase 2. The goal of asking the same questions was to determine whether their open-ended answers matched the ones expected from using the proposed trust model and to further explore the questions and answers.

An analysis of the case study results (Table II) indicated that the nine case study participants, similarly to the survey respondents, preferred face-to-face communications; preferred electronic documents; felt that following through on agreements is a sign of trustworthiness; for the most part preferred to work with owners and subcontractors but not construction managers; overall felt that all the KPIs were important. In addition, a majority felt that trust did not impact the contract type; was important in the design and pre-construction stages; was important in construction, procurement and close out; and enhances management skills. In conclusion, the responses to the case study validation questions tended to be overall similar to the ones derived from the survey questionnaire using the proposed trust model and as such validated the proposed trust model.

4.5 Revised trust model (Phase 5)

The open-ended responses of the validation case studies and the interaction with the respondents pointed out the need for revisions to the preliminary trust model. As shown in Figure 6, the changes of the preliminary trust model included reorganization of the factors to better reflect the results of the validation case studies, and adding the two factors: trust is important on all contract types; and lump sum contracts require higher levels of trust.

Overuse of e-mail and unclear benefits of using new technologies and/or new work processes was added to the factors that weakened trust. Honoring informal and formal agreements and focusing on improving project schedule and lowering project costs was added to the factors that strengthened trust. Identifying contextual factors such as unique project circumstances, owner interests and stakeholder background was also added to the model because of their influence on project success (Levitt, 2007). Lastly, an indication of improved trust and improved project bottom line was included since it was demonstrated in other empirical studies that improved trust tends to have a number of positive impacts (Fong and Lung, 2007).

The use of the revised trust model starts with the understanding that trust is important during all phases of the construction process (pre-construction, design, procurement, construction, and close out) and for all contract types (lump sum, unit price, cost plus fee, negotiated, etc.). Phase A of the revised trust model identified the factors requiring higher levels of trust, the factors weakening trust and the factors unique to the project. Phase B utilized trust strengthening factors, related trust factors and aligned these factors to the specific context of the construction project. As a result of using the revised trust model the level of trust between contracting parties as well as the project bottom line can be improved.

The construction industry faces a number of challenges including low profitability, low productivity, high number of claims, and low use of technology. Human action based on trust might be the key to solving these problems. The revised trust model (Figure 6) developed in this study can be used by US contractors to anticipate or predict the trust levels between them and contracting parties and can in turn assist in formulating strategies that would foster a higher degree of trust. The model is flexible depending on the different factors that are identified and the outcomes desired. For instance, it is important to identify if higher levels of trust are required as a result of a need to improve leadership, communication, team building or information sharing (see Figure 6, Phase A, Stage 1).

Next, the individual using the model is required to identify the existence of any factors that could weaken trust (see Figure 6, Phase A, Stage 2). These factors could include the overuse of e-mail or the important context factors that could impact trust. The contextual factors could include the owner’s preferences, past experiences, and unique project conditions (see Figure 6, Phase A, Stage 3). Identifying factors that require higher levels of trust, factors that weaken trust and important contextual factors occurs simultaneously.

The next stage of the model is focused on strengthening trust (see Figure 6, Phase B, Stage 1). Options in this stage include participating in face-to-face meetings, following through on informal agreements, and the use of a neutral third party to administer a corrective change order. In next stage it is important to utilize or anticipate the different associations discussed in the model, for instance the relationship between work experience and the lack of optimism for using advanced technology or how improving one KPI is perceived to be improving other KPIs (see Figure 5, Phase B, Stage 2).

The third stage of Phase B is focused on ensuring that the contextual factors are aligned with those that strengthen trust (see Figure 6, Phase B, Stage 3). As detailed throughout this study there are many factors that were analyzed, categorized and included in the revised trust model. This also means that there are many different applications for the revised trust model and many different trust strengthening strategies that could be generated by using it.

4.6 Comparison to other construction trust models

A number of similarities exist between the proposed trust model (Figure 6) and other trust models and include the cyclical nature of trust where trust can be weakened or strengthened depending on outcomes over time. There are also a number of differences between the trust models. Pinto et al. (2009) noted that the antecedents of trustworthiness are competency, benevolence and integrity. However, these factors do not necessarily apply to the construction industry. The main factor that affects the contractor’s perception of trustworthiness proposed in the revised trust model (Figure 6) is honoring informal and formal agreements.

This was described as “doing what you said you would do” by case study participants. This factor was also perceived as distinct from competency, integrity and benevolence and is unique to construction projects. Due to the overwhelming number of constantly changing tasks that are required on a given project, it is very difficult to monitor every action. This creates a unique need for trust and creates a unique factor that affects trustworthiness in the construction industry. An additional difference pertaining to the trust models is the more cautious nature of construction professionals in building trust on construction projects. This is due to the greater risks associated with construction projects, which are not only business but also health and safety related.

A number of similarities and differences exist between the proposed trust model and existing models found in construction literature (see Table III). Considerable differences exist in the sample population of each model and the survey methodology. Pinto et al. (2009) used face-to-face interviews with owners and contractors working on large construction projects in Northwest Canada. Wong et al. (2008) used mailed questionnaire to survey project managers, owners, architects, engineers and consultants throughout Hong Kong. Jin and Ling (2005b) also used mailed questionnaires to survey developers, consultants and contractors. The proposed model used a telephone survey supported by fax and e-mail to survey construction professionals working for ENR top 400 US contractors.

A number of similarities exist between the three existing models and the proposed trust model. Pinto et al. (2009) analyzed competency as a factor that affects trustworthiness on construction projects similar to the proposed model. Wong et al. (2008) found that communication methods, contracts, and agreements impact trust between contracting parties on construction projects similar to the proposed trust model. Jin and Ling (2005b) found trust to be important in each construction phase thus matching the findings in the proposed trust model.

The proposed trust model expands upon the three existing models (see Table III). The proposed trust model was developed based on the analysis of a number of factors related to communication methods, document types, trustworthiness factors, contract types, stakeholders, KPIs, and the different construction phases that were not analyzed by the existing trust models.

5. Conclusions

Previous studies by Turner and Muller (2005) and Levitt (2007) found that there is a need for research on the factors leading to strong trust specific to construction projects. Hence, there is a need to evaluate trust theories in the context of the construction industry and to develop construction specific trust models. The proposed trust model adds a number of different dimensions to the existing trust models and as such improves the user’s ability to foster and enhance trust on a construction project.

This research showed the importance of trust between contracting parties throughout the entire construction process. Work in the pre-construction, design, procurement, construction and close out phases was perceived by contractors to be improved by the existence of trust between stakeholders. The presence of trust lessens the time and effort required to manage the details of a project, which in return improves the bottom line of construction projects and their stakeholders.

The use of e-mail on construction projects needs to be reclassified as casual communication. The over-use of e-mail also causes a number of communication challenges on construction projects. These challenges if not resolved by face-to-face communication weaken trust, create adversarial relationships and could lead to legal disputes. Good communication on construction projects is supported by the use of electronic documents (schedules, estimates, pictures and videos), signed contracts and complete drawings and specifications. Sharing information in an adequate and timely manner is also an important method of strengthening trust between contracting parties over time.

The main contribution of this research is the development of a trust model that has a greater level of detail as compared to existing models and that is focused on large US contractors. This research provides US contractors with a new tool to measure and improve trust between contracting parties and can help decrease project duration and costs and improve project results. Future research should focus on expanding the trust model to include the perceptions of other construction project stakeholders; conducting comparative case studies with other models and extending the study to smaller size construction companies.

Figures

Research phases, objectives and methods

Figure 1

Research phases, objectives and methods

Integrated framework for the trust process

Figure 2

Integrated framework for the trust process

Trust factors tested for inclusion in preliminary trust model

Figure 3

Trust factors tested for inclusion in preliminary trust model

Categories of trust factors included in the trust model

Figure 4

Categories of trust factors included in the trust model

Preliminary trust model for contracting parties on construction projects

Figure 5

Preliminary trust model for contracting parties on construction projects

Detailed revised trust model for contracting parties on construction projects

Figure 6

Detailed revised trust model for contracting parties on construction projects

Demographics of case study participants

Case study Services Owners Years in Bus. Project type(s) Job title Deg. Particip. age Exper. Annual volume
1 CM, DB, PM Family >50 Commercial, Gov., Health Care, Educ. PM MS <40 <10 >$100 million
2 All Public >50 General, Commercial, Residential, PPP Director BS >50 >20 >$1 billion
3 All Employee owned >100 Energy, Infrastructure, Commercial PM MS <40 15 >$1 billion
4 CM Private >80 Any Negotiated Work VP BS >50 >20 >$100 million
5 GC, CM, DB Private >40 Commercial; Mixed Retail Sr. PM BS <40 15 >$300 million
6 All Public >100 Full range PM MS <30 <5 >$4 billion
7 CE Public >150 Sewer and Waste, Water, Power, Civil, Structural and Design Director MS >50 >20 >$1 billion
8 Consultant, Eng., and PM Public >80 Energy, Power, and Process engineering PM MS >45 >20 >$4 billion
9 All Employee owned >100 CE, Heavy and Building PM BS >45 >20 >$4 billion

Case study responses

Case studies
Trust impact factors 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Communication method Face-to-face preferred
Document type Electronic documents preferred
Perception of Trustworthiness Following through on agreements
Type of stakeholder Prefers to work with owners not CMs Prefers to work with owners Prefers to work with owners not CMs Prefers to work with owners Prefers to work with owners and subs Prefers to work with subs Preference depends on nature of project Prefers not to work with CMs Prefers not to work with CMs
KPIs All important Budget and schedule All important Cost, schedule, quality All important
Contract type No impact Impacts all No impact Negotiated Impacts all No impact Impacts all
Other construction related factors Important in design and pre-con Important in pre-con Important in design and pre-con Important in pre-con
Construction change factors Important in construction, procurement and closeout Imp. in all aspects of construction Most imp. in pre-con phase Not in favor of neutral 3rd party use
Management Enhances management skills Enhances mgmt. results Difficult for individuals to use IT Enhances mgmt. skills Enhances mgmt. results

Comparison of the different trust models with proposed model

Existing trust models Sample characteristics of existing models Similarities between existing and proposed models Differences between existing and proposed models Proposed model additions to existing models
Pinto et al. (2009, p. 5) Northwest Canada Analyzed factors related to competency-based trust and integrity-based trust Analyzes factors related to intuitive-based trust Communication method
Face-to-face interviews Findings: competency is an important factor that affects trustworthiness Less comprehensive, analyzes a fewer number of factors Document type
Owners and contractors involved in large construction projects The nature of trust could change with the context Less specific Trustworthiness
Findings: contractors and project owners prefer different forms of trust KPI
Stakeholders
Contract types
Pre-construction and design phase
Procurement and construction phase
Wong et al. (2008, p. 824) Hong Kong Analyzed communication systems, contracts and agreements Analyzed factors related to organizational policies, knowledge management, thoughtfulness and emotional investment Trustworthiness
Mail survey Findings: Communication methods, contracts, and agreements influence trust Findings: emotional and knowledge factors impact trust KPI
Project managers, owners, architects, engineers and consultants System-based, cognitive-based and affect-based trust are mutually dependent Stakeholders
70% had 10 years or more of experience Contract types
Pre-construction and design phase
Procurement and construction phase
Jin and Ling (2005a) China Analyzed construction trust in different construction phases Analyzed the changes in the dependency for each phase of the construction process Communication method
Mail survey Asked survey respondents about the relationship between risk and trust Each construction phase has a different inherent risk, tool for fostering trust, dominant and dependent relationships Document type
Property developer, professional consultant, contractor Findings: trust is important in each construction phase; there are different tools to foster trust; trust and risk are inadvertently related Trustworthiness
75% more than 5 years’ experience KPI
Stakeholders
Contract types
Pre-construction and design phase
Procurement and construction phase

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Further reading

Engineering News-record (ENR) (2009), The 2009 top 400 Contractors, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

Supplementary materials

BEPAM_8_1.pdf (7.3 MB)

Corresponding author

Svetlana Olbina can be contacted at: svetlana.olbina@colostate.edu