The Ambiguity of Value

Jarkko J. Erikshammar1, Anders Bjornfot2 & Viktor Gardelli3

1M.Sc., Ph.D. Student, Department of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, and member Timber Structures Research Group, Luleå University of Technology, SE-971 87 Luleå, Sweden, Phone +46 920 491 860, Fax +46 920 491 935, jarkko.erikshammar@ltu.se
2Ph.D., Department of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, and manager of the TräIN project, Timber Structures Research Group, Luleå University of Technology, SE-971 87 Luleå, Sweden, Phone +46 920 492067, Fax +46 920 491 935, anders.bjornfot@ltu.se
3Ph.D. Student, Department of Education, Luleå University of Technology, SE-971 87 Luleå, Sweden, Phone +46 (0)920 491550, viktor.gardelli@ltu.se

Abstract

'Value‘ is a central concept in all of the principles and methods applied in Lean Construction, but it is rather difficult to provide a precise definition of the term. The problem lies in the word value itself: its ambiguity and vagueness make theorization difficult. This paper investigates the philosophical concept of value from a Lean Construction perspective. Several elements that contribute to value are considered, including objective elements such as waste reduction, quality, price and functionality, and more subjective elements such as design. The hypothesis of this paper is that the reduction or removal of elements that detract from value, such as waste and costs, is not the only means by which value may be increased. The Sorites paradox is used to form a cohesive perspective on some different meanings of the word ‗value‘. One of the known ‗solutions‘ of the paradox, utilization theory, is then explored through a case study in off-site construction that illustrates how different actors in the construction process view value, and how utility theory can be used to provide a consensus on value that is acceptable. In practice, ‗value‘ is ambiguous because actors generally value different things and these views seldom converge during projects. Our results indicate that the actors involved strive for value individually. Analysis using utility theory allows the actors to establish a shared conceptualization of value, expressed in monetary terms. The work described in this paper aims to improve our understanding of value and of how to design products in construction to improve value for clients of industrialized housing.

Keywords

Lean Construction, Value, Product, Philosophy Sorites paradox.

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Reference

Erikshammar, J.J. , Bjornfot, A. & Gardelli, V. 2010, 'The Ambiguity of Value' In:, Walsh, K. & Alves, T., 18th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. Haifa, Israel, 14-16 Jul 2010. pp 42-51

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