McCaffer, R. (2009), "Editorial", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 16 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ecam.2009.28616caa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Volume 16, Issue 3
Volume 16 Number 3 has the usual wide variety of topics. Materials control is the feature of this issue, being the basis of two papers. One relates to the materials control for building services works, for which the author is near to definitive solutions which could be implemented with some more effort. The second paper opens up the subject of construction logistics. Construction logistics ought to feature more prominently in our research than it appears at present. Planners tend to deal with construction logistics within site boundaries. This leaves the bigger issues of construction logistics from outwith the site covering the suppliers’ depots, factories, and consolidation warehouses as well as the site. Logistics is a big issue, particularly in confined city sites. If I were a young PhD student looking for a topic I might well look at the broader issues of construction logistics.
Other topics are “designers learning”, “risk in conservation projects”, “job satisfaction of architects” and “leadership”. Leadership is another rich field waiting to be exploited as it is an area in which the construction management community would appear to be weak. In most of our taught courses leadership seems confined to project management. The really big leadership challenges are at industry level. It is the industry leaders who set the standards of good practice and establish the quality of service that collectively is delivered to clients. It seems to me that more effort is needed in educating, training and developing leaders for our industry and we need the research to support such an effort.
The six papers in this issue took 12 authors to produce; one paper is single authored, three papers have two authors and two papers have three authors.
As usual we have a group of international authors. We have four authors from Hong Kong and one Hong Kong based Sri Lankan, four authors from the UK, one Nigerian but UK based, one Singaporean, one Thai and one Australian.
What is pleasing is the richness of the research methods. Only one paper relied on questionnaires alone; other papers based their data collection on interviews, workshops and focus groups as well as questionnaires. I am convinced that the research that has direct face-to-face contact with the practitioners will benefit greatly and produce good results.
The papers in this issue are as follows.
Wan and Kumaraswamy address the issues of materials control with specific focus on building service works. The authors argue that building services are now a large and important element in building works because of the need for comfort, connectivity, health, safety and security. However the consequences of building services installation is a resultant large volume of debris. The authors argue that the resolution lies, in part, with materials control.
The data sources the researchers used were brainstorming, focus groups and interviews. From this the problems have been identified. These include poor coordination of trades, inappropriate site storage and inadequate protection of materials.
This identification of problems leads to recommendations on storage, the use of industrial flow patterns and the use of RFID. This author has identified an issue of materials control that can be tackled. The author has the basis for producing a manual for project and site use to reduce waste and lower cost. Such a manual, used extensively, would be an excellent contribution to the industry from this research.
Ng, Shi and Fang also address issues related to materials and wish to enhance the logistics of construction materials. Their solution is to use an activity-based simulation approach. The conflict that the authors see is between carrying material stocks, or as they would argue, excessive material stocks so that the labour force is not held up against risking labour down time. The authors argue that activity-based simulation is the key to quantifying the amount of buffer stock needed with greater accuracy.
The topic of construction logistics is large. These authors have explored one aspect. Site planners tend to draw the boundary line of their planning around the site itself. These authors, I think, have done the same. However, construction logistics needs the boundary line drawn around the off-site suppliers and factories feeding the site as well as the site itself. Taking that step, construction logistics becomes a larger and more challenging area. My feeling is that we, the construction research community, have not quite grasped the enormity of construction logistics and have much to learn from logistic experts in other fields; for example, the supermarkets and retail industry have sizable logistic teams and great expertise.
Peansupap and Walker place us in a Thai context as they explore design practice in Thailand. The aspect of design that interests them is “designers learning”. How do Thai designers learn and how does that influence their design? The researchers constructed an evaluation model of 26 variables and had it evaluated by 70 designers. From this the authors have been able to identify the key variables and the importance of each.
The important question is what will the authors do now with this data. Can they see a way of using it to construct the learning vehicles that will accelerate designers’ learning. A practical outcome is needed for such valuable research.
Toor and Ogunlana tackle the issue of ineffective leadership. The authors chose to target the aspect of negative personal attributes and organisational factors that impede leadership.
Their data sources were interviews and questionnaires. They comment on their findings, identifying wrongful use of power, poor communication and little experience as the leading negative factors.
This paper makes a useful contribution to a growing area. We, the construction management community, have been slow to address leadership issues. The place of leadership in our undergraduate and postgraduate courses seems weak. Our ambitions have been limited to producing project managers. We have not grasped the challenge of producing the industry leaders who will set the standards. There is much to be done.
Mansfield takes us into the area of risk management in conservation projects. The research was seeking to understand the extent of formalised risk management used by designers, architects and building surveyors in conservation and refurbishment projects. The data source used was a questionnaire. But interestingly, the questionnaire was constructed using a focus group. The results present a divergent picture and the author is proposing that it would be possible to develop a harmonised risk model that all the players could use. I am presuming that having identified the solution the author is working towards providing it. It would be interesting to determine if such a harmonised risk model would lead to more conservation projects going ahead or fewer because of the identified risk. I think there is more research required in this topic.
Sang, Ison and Dainty have explored the job satisfaction of UK architects. The authors cite work stresses as long working hours, high workload, poor work-life balance and low sense of professional worth.
Using a questionnaire to collect data the results indicate between 20 and 40 per cent of the respondents had a catalogue of dissatisfactions and some work-life difficulties and some one-third were considering leaving their current employer.
Having identified this problem it would be interesting if the researchers could quantify what the problem was costing in terms of poor creativity and productivity. If we knew the cost it would provide the budget against which to judge any solution.
The objectives of such research must be to design jobs with a workload that suits the employee and provides a good work-life balance. The intention being to develop more creative more productive architects providing better designs and services to their clients. This in turn would generate greater wealth for their employer and be reflected in great remuneration for the employee. That is we could create a more effective and efficient industry based on a work force with a greater sense of well-being. The collection of this data is a good starting point, and if built on it could improve the economy of our industry.