Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 8 November 2011



McCaffer, R. (2011), "Editorial", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 18 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/ecam.2011.28618faa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Volume 18, Issue 6

The 13 authors that produced these six papers are: four from Australia, one from USA, two from UK, two from Singapore, one from Norway and three from Malaysia. There is one paper with a single author, four papers with two authors and one paper with four authors. Two papers are jointly from different institution and countries one being Australia and the US and the other being Malaysia and Australia. I like papers from multiple institutions indicating the international breadth of collaboration and dissemination of research activity. Sadly, there are no papers in this issue that are joint with industry colleagues. As the drive to demonstrate impact of research through application and use is growing I have been expecting more papers recording research work conducted jointly with industry. This expected upsurge hasn’t arrived yet. As our UK colleagues start to prepare themselves for the next research assessment they will address the importance of impact as measured by application and how much the research has changed industry, the pressure to demonstrate real results has been and is continuing to grow. Academic impact is measured by citations but in applied subjects such as engineering and construction impact is measured by the use to which the research has been put, its application and the effect on industry and practice. The main purpose of our research is for the benefit of industry and the community not for other researchers. One of the issues that is underlying this interest in impact is relevance. Can our research community demonstrate the relevance of its research. I think one relatively easy way to demonstrate relevance is joint work with industry and joint publications.

Having said that I don’t think this issue’s set of papers has much difficulty in demonstrating relevance. The papers include topics on: entry modes for international construction firms entering new markets; measuring the value of safety training on safety performance; how much potential home owners will invest for sustainability; constructability where the benefits of implementing “lessons learned” are clearly demonstrated; risk assessment in roads projects in Palestine; and how to manage innovation.

The papers in this issue are:

Chen and Messner have been researching entry modes for international construction markets in order to build a selection model. How an international contractor enters a market is critical to the sustainability of the business, its growth and its profit so entry modes are important. Previous studies had identified ten entry modes and the new research is aimed at differentiating the entry modes in order to build a systematic and comprehensive selection method.

The data sources were archival analysis and interviews with practitioners. This formed the basis of a comparative analysis and how the modes can be combined or sequenced in market entry.

The basic entry modes were mapped and the applicability of the entry modes for 42 different country markets are reported. Based on the results of the comparative case study a process model for market entry mode selection is proposed.

An interesting paper in an important topic that is not often addressed by construction researchers. This is a subject where there is considerable judgement exercised by the practitioners in the exercise of market entry so any framework of support for these judgemental decision should be welcomed.

Hare and Cameron who have specialised in research in safety have turned their attention to the training of site managers with respect to safety. The research reported comes from a project on the factors that contribute to superior safety performance which was funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health. Their particular interest is the level of safety training received by site managers.

Their data sources were 100 construction firms selected randomly who provided details of type and duration of Health and Safety training received by their site managers. This data was cross-tabulated with the companies’ Accident Incident Rate. The data they present is clear that increased training leads to increased safety performance.

The importance of this research is that it provides baseline in relation to the minimum level of H and S training for site managers and a means of evaluating the benefit of increased training to achieve superior performance. In effect this paper provides the data that enables companies to determine what level of safety performance they are aiming at when they choose how much to invest in training. This is a powerful challenge to company practice and should have an impact on the training and safety records of our companies. The companies cannot say we won’t invest in anymore training because … it’s a waste of money … we don’t know the benefit … training is important but there are other priorities etc. This research really sharpens up the decisions in companies with respect to safety training.

Ling and Gunawansa in response to the needs of climate change, these researchers wish to develop the strategies that will enable owners to own environmentally sustainable homes. The issues are how much are owners willing to pay and what ‘green’ features are they willing to pay for. The data source was questionnaires. The results do not indicate that the population of Singapore is willing to pay very much more for sustainability with the additional upfront costs that they would tolerate being only 1 per cent. The favoured green” features identified were natural ventilation and the provision of greenery.

This paper is interesting in that it attempts to quantify the investment individuals will make in sustainability and the answer is not a lot. Thus, the drive for sustainability will need to come from the providers of sustainable homes finding much more cost effective ways of providing the facilities. It appears there is no economic drive for sustainability coming from the public, they are not demanding it. This has set us up for some more interesting studies as to how we fund sustainability, who pays and how much. These are fundamental political questions that affects our industry so our research community ought to be looking for answers to provide to the industry and the politicians.

Bakti, Abdul Majid, Zin and Trigunarsyah are interested in constructability and have conducted a case study on the planning and design of a project for a sea water intake structure of a fertilizer plant. The investigation used a constructability implementation checklist, direct observation, documentation of lessons learned and interviews with key personnel. The reference data came from three previous sea water intakes. The constructability study reduced the project duration by five months and costs by 15.35 per cent.

The paper demonstrates that using the constructability checklist and documenting lessons learned delivers real savings. We often ask for examples of success in practical terms of our research work. I think we have one such example here.

Mahamid has researched the factors that affect time delays in road construction projects from the client’s perspective. This study relates to roads projects in the West Bank in Palestine.

The researcher classified the risks into green, yellow and red depending on the severity of risk. The risk matrix assembled were distributed as 6 in the green zone, 29 in the yellow zone and 8 in the red zone. An interesting appraisal of risk in the circumstances of the West Bank. The risks are catalogued at a fairly generic level, it would be helpful to have some guidance on how to mitigate the identified risks.

Hardy and Newall have examined the factors that influence technical innovation in small and medium construction firms. The more focussed issue is to determine if there are any common lessons from the experience of individuals who have gone against the trend and have gone on to deliver successful innovations.

A value tree of contributing factors was used to capture the experience of company decision makers who managed to deliver successful change with limited resources.

The findings reveal the importance of supportive clients and performance based building standards. There were significant differences between product and process innovation. The paper offers guidance to managers wishing to improve innovation successes by the insights from successful innovators.

Stimulating innovation is difficult. What companies need to be careful of is that their processes and management doesn’t actually discourage innovation. That is if innovation bubbles up how do you manage it. It is easier to see the costs, the downsides, and the greater likelihood of failure. Yet innovation needs room to flourish and managers with the wisdom to allow that. This paper contributes guidance to managers.

As this is the final edition for 2011 it is the time for our expression of gratitude and thanks to the 56 referees who supported us throughout the year. Referees provide a critical service to the publication of a journal. Like all journals we are deeply indebted to the referees for the service they provide.

New referees are always welcome, the more we have the more evenly spread will be the burden of refereeing. If you are not one of our referees and would like to be please contact the journal office.

Ronald McCaffer

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