Building Networks

Construction project organisation presents a particularly complex arrangement of production. The products of construction – buildings and other forms of physical infrastructure – are unique in design and/or location. Unlike typical manufacturing production, integration and assembly of materials and components in construction occurs in-situ, with large numbers of actors including: clients, professional consultants, regulatory authorities, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, etc., organised in temporary coalitions around work at remote sites. For each project, these production arrangements are unique, involving a one-off combination of actors and responding to particular design requirements, prevailing economic and institutional conditions, client procurement strategies and industrial norms.

These characteristics of construction have contributed to the limited success of research aimed at characterising comprehensively the production arrangements involved in projects of sufficient scale to be of economic significance in a local context. Approaches such as structural analysis and process mapping have captured aspects of production arrangements, however, the formats adopted limit the scope of actors and interactions that can be represented. Representation techniques from social network analysis and material cost flow accounting could contribute to more-comprehensive descriptions of the organisation of actors and resources in construction projects. Further, digital visualisation methods present an opportunity to move beyond limitations upon scale and complexity that static formats entail. In the field of construction management and economics, these techniques have yet to be adequately explored.

The proposed project aims to increase knowledge about the organisation of production in construction, taking into account effects of prevailing economic and institutional conditions and the implications of production arrangements for project efficiency and potential contributions to local economic and industrial development. It will do so by comprehensively mapping production arrangements in a particular public project – construction of a new building for the Smart Living Lab at Fribourg. This digital, interactive mapping of production arrangements for the Smart Living Lab building will involve periodical interviews and surveys of the full range of actors in the project coalition, documenting communication and contractual relations between actors and flows of knowledge, information, labour, materials, components and equipment.