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Review of construction journals on causes of project cost overruns

Serdar Durdyev (Department of Engineering and Architectural Studies, Ara Institute of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 31 July 2020

Issue publication date: 28 April 2021




The study investigates the causes of project cost overruns (COs) that have been reported in the construction-management-related articles since 1985.


To achieve the aim and provide recommendations to avoid project COs, 48 selected journal articles were reviewed and assessed with regard to the countries, institutions and researchers that have contributed to the subject.


The review of the articles shows that the subject has attracted a considerable attention from the researchers worldwide. However, the problem mainly occurred in developing countries and the researchers drew the attention on the resource-related, economic/financial as well as political problems. While 79 causes of COs were identified, the top ten causes of project COs, which have received the highest number of citations by the reviewed articles, were presented and discussed. These causes are: design problems and incomplete design, inaccurate estimation, poor planning, weather, poor communication, stakeholder's skill, experience and competence, financial problems/poor financial management, price fluctuations, contract management issues and ground/soil conditions.

Research limitations/implications

The study findings have several implications, which are not only for the academic world, but also for the construction front line. For scholars, the study provides a list of project COs that the researchers in the area could benefit for their future studies. The industry practitioners could find ways to improve project cost performance by giving attention to the causative factors that are significantly affecting construction projects and investing their resources and efforts towards the most occurred ones.


Thus, this study provides insight into the research output on the subject and a checklist of COs, which is believed to provide a better understanding of significant areas requiring attention where steps should be taken to minimize or control factors causing COs in construction projects.



Durdyev, S. (2021), "Review of construction journals on causes of project cost overruns", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 1241-1260.



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