Byggeriets produktion af svigt i et strukturationsperspektiv - et studie af reaktive og proaktive problemløsningspraksisser

Casper Siebken Schultz

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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    Abstract

    This thesis is the result of an Industrial PhD project conducted in cooperation between the university and NCC Construction Denmark – one of the largest contractors in Denmark. The specific purpose is to examine how failures and defects are produced and handled in the social practices of construction projects in order to make changes and thereby reducing the extent of failure in the building processes. As a result of the research design and the rooting of the study in the company the thesis contributes with an in-depth understanding of the relationship between the structural premises and the actions and decision-making of the project managers and craftsmen on construction projects. The premise is that failure and defects cannot be seen as isolated incidents, but must be regarded as a correlation between the successful as well as the faulty processes.
    The key contributions of the thesis are the expansion of the understanding of: Failures and defects; how routines and experiences in addition to helping to reduce the extent of failures and defects, also can be seen as instrumental in producing and maintaining a certain level of failure. Practices of problem solving; the study highlights reactive and proactive problem-solving practices as being important for the completion of the construction project. Problem-solving practices are often forced into reactive problem solving.
    Unintended consequences of routinized practices; elaborated through a) lack of knowledge sharing beyond the project boundaries, b) the reproduction of project participants as powerful problem-solvers and c) the reproduction of an “acceptable” level of failures and defects.
    The research project is designed as an abductive research process where theory and empirical data inform each other in iterations. Based on Alvesson & Sköldberg (2000) a reflexive qualitative methodology is adopted with interpretation on four hermeneutic levels, acknowledging the need for various types of interpretations.The empirical material consists of a collection of written background material and a 15-month ethnographic field study comprised of workplace observations and qualitative interviews. The thesis is primarily sociological but represents an interdisciplinary approach through elements of an engineer-scientific approach applied for understanding the rationality of management, the habitus of engineering as well as planning.
    The theoretical framework enables the central analysis that includes the underlying structures as well as the processes of structuration. It enables the understanding and analysis of the actions of the agents in the construction processes through the combination of processual elements with elements of stability (structures). The thesis’ main theory is Anthony Giddens theory of structuration (e.g. Giddens 1984) which is adapted to the empirical analysis primarily on basis of Rob Stones ‘strong structuration project’ (Stones, 2005). The social practice is the mediating term between action and structure and describes the relationship between agent, action and structure in a duality of structure where the three concepts are mutually related. Structures are both the medium and the outcome of the process and are considered both constraining and enabling and as embedded in the agent - and may change over the course of time. On the basis of structures the social practice constitutes individuals as conscious, knowledgeable agents and through “activities agents reproduce the conditions that makes these activities possible” (Giddens 1984; 2). I.e. structures are reproduced, or perhaps reinforced or transformed - often unconsciously, which is described as an unintended consequence of social practices.
    The thesis examines the main problem from four selected empirical cases all from a larger residential construction project, and thus focuses on the agents’ actions and decision making on the distinct project rather than generalizations across business processes. The story begins with a number of "ordinary" small problems and defects in the processes of erecting the precast concrete elements and subsequently a series of observations from everyday processes around the assembly. Quality is only one of many considerations and objectives that shape and structure the processes. The otherwise mundane assembly story reaches a climax when a construction worker suffers a fatal accident, which puts everyday problems into perspective and test structures
    and practices almost to the extreme. As a counterpoint to the concrete element assembly, the planning and construction of the buildings penthouse structure is observed where processes appear much more unstructured and chaotic. In addition a case study furthermore focuses on the interaction between projects and business processes, highlighting the impact of the business quality structures in relation to “producing” quality in the actual project processes at the construction site. Moreover, it is studied how the specific project experiences affects the company structures.
    Original languageDanish
    PublisherChalmers University of Technology. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Number of pages413
    ISBN (Print)978-91-7385-773-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    SeriesChalmers Tekniska Hoegskola. Doktorsavhandlingar. Ny Serie
    Number3454
    ISSN0346-718X

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