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Labor waste in housing construction projects: an empirical study

Soraya Nassri (Department of Construction, Architecture and Urban Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University G.C., Terhran, Iran)
Saeed Talebi (School of Engineering and Built Environment, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)
Faris Elghaish (School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Kayvan Koohestani (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Stephen McIlwaine (School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
M. Reza Hosseini (Faculty of Science Engineering and Built Environment, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Mani Poshdar (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Michail Kagioglou (School of Engineering Design and Built Environment, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia)

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment

ISSN: 2046-6099

Article publication date: 29 October 2021

Issue publication date: 20 February 2023




High-level labor waste is a major challenge in construction projects. This paper aims to identify, quantify and categorize labor waste in the context of Iranian housing construction projects.


This research uses a case study approach, with empirical data collected through direct observations and semi-structured interviews.


Having triangulated the findings from the literature review and empirical studies, a list of eight types of waste was derived for the thirteen observed laborers in ten case study projects. The empirical studies allowed the labor waste identified from the literature to be verified and refined by considering it in the context of the observed activities, and led to two new types of waste being identified which were not considered in the literature. Findings indicate that nearly 62% of laborers' time is spent on non-value-adding activities. It appeared that “unnecessary movement,” “waiting” and “indirect work” make up the highest labor waste.

Research limitations/implications

This research focuses only on onsite resource flows in a housing construction site. It does not include offsite flows such as material delivery to site.


The findings have provided substantial evidence on type and amount of labor waste and provide a solid basis to stimulate construction actors to participate in reducing labor waste and improving productivity.



Nassri, S., Talebi, S., Elghaish, F., Koohestani, K., McIlwaine, S., Hosseini, M.R., Poshdar, M. and Kagioglou, M. (2023), "Labor waste in housing construction projects: an empirical study", Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 325-340.



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