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Reframing construction within the built environment sector

Gerard de Valence (School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 3 September 2018

Issue publication date: 30 May 2019




Official statistics on the output of the construction industry capture on-site activities of contractors and sub-contractors; however, the role of the industry linking suppliers of materials, machinery, products, services and other inputs is also widely recognised. These two views have been called broad and narrow, with the narrow industry defined as on-site work and the broad industry as the supply chain of materials, products and assemblies, and professional services. An argument is made for using the term “built environment sector” (BES) for the broad industry definition of construction. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Construction industry statistics capture the on-site activities of contractors and sub-contractors. This paper reviews research that adds to construction output the contributions of suppliers of materials, machinery and equipment, products and components, professional services and other inputs required to deliver the buildings and structures that make up the built environment.


The same term, “construction”, has been used in a number of ways in different definitional studies of the narrow and broad industry. The term that best encompasses the large number and range of participants in the creation and maintenance of the built environment, from suppliers to end users, is the BES.

Research limitations/implications

Construction economics makes an important contribution to researching the macroeconomic role of the BES. There is also a special role for construction economics in researching both the boundaries of the BES and the data available on the industries that contribute to the BES.

Practical implications

Measuring the BES would improve the understanding of its macroeconomic role and significance.

Social implications

Measuring the BES would contribute to city policies and urban planning.


The paper proposes a new approach to defining and measuring the industries that contribute to the production, maintenance and management of the built environment. It introduces a new name for the combination of those industries.



de Valence, G. (2019), "Reframing construction within the built environment sector", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 740-745.



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