Updated: Apr 6
Construction Market Overview
Construction is an inherently high-risk, high-cost, long-term activity and low-margin business with countless opportunities for miscoordination, miscommunication, and disconnected processes (Stella Xu, 2020). The construction industry in the UK contributes to a turnout of £110 billion per annum with a 7% contribution to GDP and accounts for approximately 3 million jobs, 10% of total employment in the UK (Wiki, 2021).
As boldly stated in the UK government publication “Construction 2025” in 2013 some ambitious goals were set for the future strategy of the construction industry. A 33% reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole-life costs of built assets and a 50% reduction in the overall time, from inception to completion, for newbuild and refurbished assets were set to be achieved (Construction2025, 2013).
The Golden Triangle
Furthermore, the goals set completely align with the primal pillars of the project management practice also defined as the golden triangle, driven by objectives of cost, time and quality as seen in Figure 1 and 2 where different iterations of the principles are visualised. Project managers of civil engineering projects will play a vital role in achieving these set goals through improving the processes and systems used in delivering projects.
Construction projects can vary from very small local magnitude to large national dimensions with inherent features that make them complicated enterprises to run (e.g.HS2) characterised by high levels of complexity, uniqueness of works, uncertainty, and extensive planning. Hereafter comes the role of the project manager who is responsible for the development and delivery of a project to the client’s requirements and specifications. Since the 1950s and the origins of the cold war, the uses of the project management discipline in the construction industry have developed excessively.
Now, as an established discipline, management of whole projects from client’s idea to funding coordination, project managers (PM) have the responsibility of control and delivery of the procurement, production, administration, design, construction, and personnel management of projects.
As defined by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) the primary purpose of project management is to add significant and specific value to the process of delivering construction projects (CIOB, 2014). This could be achieved by the systematic application of project management values focused on the core constraints of time, quality or cost with a whole life cycle perspective of the project also known as the triple constraints (CIOB, 2014).
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Every project, no matter the size has different phase points throughout the start and completion of the project. The objectives of every project should be defined at the feasibility stage hence the contract signed with the chosen contractor should outline and emphasise the expected deliverables and requirements as provided by the client. However, contractors mostly overlook the essentiality of objectives of quality and time since the cost is usually the most important determinant of selecting contractors in the current competitive construction industry (He, 2014).
Cost, Time & Quality
In general, when the construction time is shortened the cost subsequently should increase as the two are correlated. By using less efficient equipment, using no innovative technologies available as well as hiring the minimum number of workers will lead to a longer duration to complete activities on site.
Also, due to contractors reducing their profit margins to win work over tenders and also promising quick construction schedule may lead to low quality of works. Having this approach on projects for example highway bridges will result in fast deterioration of the structure such as corrosion on structural steel, hence increasing extensively the maintenance cost (CIOB, 2014) (Lock, 2013).
Nevertheless, a construction manager should be capable to balance the cost, time and quality of a project from the early planning phase using all the tools available to make accurate and to the point decisions on the golden triangle objectives (He, 2014).
Read more about the complexity and correlation of time, cost and quality/performance of construction projects with a focus on understanding the key areas of action of large civil engineering projects here.
The role and responsibility of the Project Manager in advising the client on procurement.
Due to client inexperience in procurement systems, the role and responsibilities of the project manager in advising the client on procurement entail guiding the client on the relative benefits and disadvantages of each option, related to the particular circumstances of the project, for the benefit of the client (CIOB, 2014).
In terms of procurement strategy, the project manager should establish the procurement brief, setting out the appropriate method of selection as well as implement the procurement strategy and outline the project management functions agreed under the contract (Harris & McCaffer, 2013).
The project manager has the responsibility to identify the project function in terms of time, cost and performance constraints as per client satisfaction (Morledge & Smith, 2013) and influence the resources required to ensure the success of the project such as the appointment of the architect, quantity surveyor and other consultants. Special attention should be given to maintaining the standards of the strategy set throughout all stages of the project (Morledge & Smith, 2013).
Moreover, a key responsibility the project manager holds is to keep clear communication with all the key players and to try to minimise conflict within the delivery of the project (Morledge & Smith, 2013). As an employer’s representative the project manager is directly accountable and responsible to provide expertise and advice to the clients in regards to the complexity of choosing the right procurement system with the aim to seek a satisfactory outcome.
CIOB, 2014. Code of Practice for Project Management for Construction and Development. s.l.:John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.
Construction2025, 2013. Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership, London: HM Govrnment.
Dalton, M., 2008. Why Public Sectors projects fail. In: s.l.:construction manager, p. 23.
He, W. H. a. X., 2014. An Innovative Time-Cost-Quality Tradeoff Modeling of Building Construction Project Based on Resource Allocation. The Scientific World Journal, Volume 2014, p. 10.
Hong Zhang, F. X., 2010. Fuzzy-multi-objective particle swarm optimization for time–cost–quality tradeoff in construction. Automation in Construction, Volume 19, pp. 1067-1075.
Harris, F. & McCaffer, R., 2013. Modern Construction Management. Seventh Edition ed. s.l.:Wiley-Blackwell.
Lock, D., 2013. Project Management. 10th Edition ed. s.l.:Taylor & Francis Group.
Oakervee, D., 2019. Oakervee Review, s.l.: s.n.
Potts, K., 2008. Construction Cost Management. London: Taylor & Francis.
Pratley, N., 2020. The Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/03/at-307m-per-mile-of-track-can-the-cost-of-hs2-be-justified
Stella Xu, D. H. R. H. C. K. S., 2020. Enhancing Construction Project Management through AI. [Online]
Wiki, 2021. Designing Buildings Wiki. [Online] Available at: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/UK_construction_industry