Ethics of the Design Phase – a Descriptive Approach

Fredrik Svalestuen1, Jardar Lohne2, Vegard Knotten3 & Ola Lædre4

1Ph.D. Candidate, NTNU, – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway/Design Manager,Veidekke Entreprenør AS, + 47 986 73 172,
2Researcher,, NTNU, - Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, +47 922 93 110,
3PhD Candidate/ Design Manager NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology/ Veidekke Entreprenør, Trondheim, Norway, +4791842758,
4Associate Professor,, - Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, + 47 911 89 938,


This paper reports on a pilot study on the design phase in Norwegian construction projects using elements from lean construction approaches. The ambition has been to establish a descriptive picture of ethical challenges in the design phase in general, and of projects characterized by lean design in particular. In addition to a literature review and a document study, interviews with key participants were carried out according to a qualitative approach. The study was undertaken in order to address both general questions of ethics in construction project management, and more specific questions pertaining to the design phase of such projects. This research finds indications of actors manoeuvring in the design phase for own benefit at the expense of other actors. The findings indicate that the design phase poses significant challenges in light of tender documents pricing and exploiting cost reimbursement contracts. In some of the projects examined, participants were found to shift loyalty after transfer of contracts and they actively tried to steer the decision processes in their own favour. There does in fact seem to be a room of manoeuvre between what is unlawful and what is ethically sound in this phase.


Ethics, design, lean design, hidden agendas, trust.



Svalestuen, F. , Lohne, J. , Knotten, V. & Lædre, O. 2015, 'Ethics of the Design Phase – a Descriptive Approach' In:, Seppänen, O., González, V.A. & Arroyo, P., 23rd Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Perth, Australia, 29-31 Jul 2015. pp 609-618

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