Understanding complexity in the AEC industry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Complexity is not new to the AEC industry. It dates back well beyond the inventionof construction management as an independent field within the building disciplines.Yet the introduction of construction management added a new magnitude to theunderstanding about, and handling of complexity. This however started with apositivistic reductionist approach which was understood as a scientific method andonly defendable academic approach to portray complexity. A simple classification ofcomplexity based on the project size or simply dividing it into ‘organisational' and‘technological' may have been deemed sufficient as of in 1980s or 1990s. On theother hand introduction of new construction technologies, new building materials,new structural optimisation tools and techniques have introduced new factors into thebuilding process throughout its lifecycle. All those added by more demanding clients'briefs, more complicated and ambitious design intents, ever-tightening legislationsand building regulations, and growing awareness about how the buildings behavebeyond their physical boundaries and outside their traditionally understood lifespanhave introduced new layers to complexity in the AEC industry. Although still valid insome respects and to some extents, our traditional view of construction complexity isnot considered ‘inclusive' anymore; nor is it ample enough to address the evergrowing‘complexity of complexity'. This paper takes a cross-sectional approach topresent a qualitative comparative analysis. It maps out complexity, its definitions andimplications and the impact it has upon the construction process. The aim of thisreview paper is to provide a ground upon which more in-depth systematic researchinto understanding, management and handling of complexity can be based, therebysuggesting a ‘re-reading of the concept of complexity' to be able to more informinglyfeed it back into construction process in the AEC industry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)
Place of PublicationReading, UK
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780955239076
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2013
EventProceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM) - Reading, UK, 2-4 September, 2013
Duration: 2 Sept 2013 → …


ConferenceProceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)
Period2/09/13 → …

Bibliographical note

© Association of Researchers in Construction Management


  • complexity
  • design complexity
  • organisational complexity
  • project complexity


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