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Construction productivity revisited: towards measuring performance of construction output

Kim Haugbølle (Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jacob Norvig Larsen (Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Jørgen Nielsen (Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Copenhagen, Denmark)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 29 May 2019

Issue publication date: 30 May 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Construction is repeatedly criticised for its low productivity based on statistical data that do not represent the output of construction adequately. The purpose of this paper is to improve the understanding of construction output – being the numerator in construction productivity calculations – by focussing on changes in quantity of the products, product characteristics and composition of the aggregate rather than as changes in price.

Design/methodology/approach

The research design of this study applies statistical data from the national accounts along with data from four paradigmatic case studies of social housing projects covering a period of 50 years.

Findings

The results indicate that while construction output prices have increased threefold over the past 50 years, improvements in performance can only explain approximately 20 per cent.

Research limitations/implications

The developed four-step method has demonstrated its value as a means to measure changes in the characteristics of the product, but more studies on the actual figures and results over time and regions are required before solid conclusions can be drawn.

Social implications

This study has added new knowledge of construction output that supports the development of a more accurate construction statistics, which in turn can assist the design of more effective and evidence-based policies for improving construction productivity.

Originality/value

This paper describes and demonstrates a novel performance-based methodology for addressing changes in the characteristics of the products in a longitudinally perspective, which can potentially provide a better understanding of changes in productivity.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was funded in part by a grant from the private non-profit foundation “Boligfonden Kuben”. The research was conducted independently of the funder throughout the entire research process. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous referees for their very valuable comments and suggestions.

Citation

Haugbølle, K., Larsen, J.N. and Nielsen, J. (2019), "Construction productivity revisited: towards measuring performance of construction output", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 794-813. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-03-2018-0094

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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