Waste, as understood in Lean thinking, does not feature in modern construction economics or management theory. These approaches fail to recognise the imperfect systems in which entities not only operate inefficiently, but additionally protect themselves by adding contingency and behaving opportunistically. The effect of these practices is to embed inefficient and wasteful processes across the supply chain and throughout the project life cycle. Consequently they have become part of the institution of the construction industry – ‘the way it does business’. The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of waste in construction and shed light on a number of regulations, norms and routines, which are taken for granted and impede efficiency and improvement efforts in construction. It starts by critically discussing a number of imperfect systems and structures that support wasteful activities in construction. Next, the background of the institutional theory is introduced, which interestingly is not well established in construction management literature. We then demonstrate how the neo-institutional theory, a branch of organizational sociology, has the potential to be used as an analytical lens to deliver a more explicit theory of waste relating cause and effect within the wider aspects of construction systems and relationships. Finally, an outline of the concept of ‘institutional waste in construction’ is defined, and five tentative guiding hypotheses are specified for future empirical examination.
Waste, Institutional theory, Taken for granted, Systems, Structures, Norms, Culture
Sarhan, S. , Pasquire, C. & King, A. 2014, 'Institutional Waste within the Construction Industry - An Outline' In:, Kalsaas, B.T., Koskela, L. & Saurin, T.A., 22nd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Oslo, Norway, 25-27 Jun 2014. pp 895-906