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Construction has been an essential part of human activities since the beginning of history. It was vital to build a home and places to stay, and it was important how to organize this process. Thus, the basic features of management within the scope of construction were visible already throughout the undertakings of the first people. It might even seem that the development of construction management since the mentioned period is a good theme to discuss. However, there were no critical factors that would have affected the construction management theory substantially. It should be claimed that in the framework of construction management, the most crucial shifts have been taking place since the 1960s due to several points. Hence, the latter statement can be a good foundation for the relevance of the investigation below. In this paper, research on the evolution of construction management from the 1960s to today will be conducted.
In the beginning, it might be rational to give a clear definition of construction management. According to researchers, “Construction management is the process of planning, coordinating and providing monitoring and controlling of a construction project” (Miller). This division of project management is aimed to function in the construction industry. It should be stated that some kinds of construction utilize this style of management – “industrial, civil, commercial, environmental, and residential” (Miller). All of the listed categories have their approach to running a project, but each of them follows the established principles of the related methodology. Although authors provide a different number of stages of construction management (Miller; “Construction project management”), the essence is the same, and many sources emphasize the importance of the phenomenon for the industry. Hence, an in-depth understanding of the evolution of construction management is a crucial factor for the comprehension of the concept as a whole.
The science of management starts in the early 1900s with its primary roots in the United States. According to Short, “Adaptation in the construction industry started after World War II, in the 1950s” (1). It should be mentioned that after the War, there was a period of prosperity of construction; in particular, it was the second age of high-rise buildings. In the 1960s, there was “the introduction of the perimeter-framed tube form in concrete by Fazlur Khan in the DeWitt–Chestnut Apartments (1963) in Chicago” (Chang and Swenson). Then, the construction of the 35-story CBS Building (1964) in New York and the 725-foot Shell Oil Building (1967) in Houston took place (Chang and Swenson). Such popularity of high-rise constructions continued in the future – up to nowadays.
The above tendency spread around the world rapidly and contributed to the increase in the complexity of construction management. Furthermore, long-span construction also became a trend – plenty of significant and vast stadiums were built (Chang and Swenson). It might be assumed that the described feature of construction that was getting more sophisticated was a crucial factor that affected the evolution of management in the industry to a great extent.
From the 1970s, there was a consistent implementation of diverse organizational models for procurement. The design-build approach implied that one company is in charge of the whole delivery. Then, “the performance requirements concept was adapted to be used in specifications” (Sjoholt 7). It seems apparent that the process of construction became even more complex than in the 1960s, so as related contracts. Many lawyers started to be involved in the industry, and plenty of legal disputes took place – such conditions required from managers a high-level qualification and full awareness of various aspects.
Moreover, in the 1970s, new kinds of contractors and developers started investing in land and abandoned industrial areas and buildings for the open market; they could even offer to finance clients. Domestic markets expanded to the global ones, which indicated the importance of international cooperation. During the period, construction managers had to develop and adhere to the set principles and rules of collaboration, taking into account many factors.
Then, computers were available in many countries already since the 1960s; however, mostly in service centers. By the end of the 1970s, plenty of planning consultants was employed by construction companies because these consultants were aware of how to utilize computers properly (Sjoholt 8). Generally, they were little familiar with construction, and it could take much time to make necessary calculations. Thus, it might be supposed that the attempt to implement computers during the period did not meet the expectations and even detained the substantial development of management systems.
Another factor related to computing systems was the vision of a new generation of construction process control to use databases for project creation. It gave rise to data-based management information systems and expert systems during the 1980s (Sjoholt 8). Plenty of scholars chose the latter theme for numerous investigations, but there was little practical use of their findings. The utilization of computers during the period between the 1960s and the late 1980s did not contribute to the improvement of construction management.
In the future, there were considerable improvements that had been followed by new software provided for the open market. In the 1990s, the evolution of various management programs and tools lead to the second generation of them. The flow of materials required efficient construction management that would be founded on new opportunities. In the late 1980s, “there were proposals to transfer methods from manufacturing and trade businesses … resulting in a few development projects” (Sjoholt 8). Meanwhile, the structure of wholesalers shifted to larger groups of retailers. They were investing in the computerizing of stocks and deliveries. It fitted the rising interests of contractors in logistics and such an approach. What is more, during the 1990s, the emergence of such concepts as supply chain, SWOT analysis, and benchmarking facilitated construction management to a great extent.
The following factor that affected the evolution of construction management is related to the increased concerns about the quality of products and services. Manufacturers started focusing more on customers’ satisfaction: According to Sjoholt, “ISO issued the first quality assurance standards in the 9000 series in 1984” (10). The emergence of these standards in construction might be considered a revolutionary process. All sectors had to pay more attention to their accounting and reports on qualities if they aimed to remain profitable. This sort of system was new for the construction industry; hence, it was a significant market for consultants and certification bodies. Managers had to adapt to these new conditions quickly and obtain vital knowledge and experience, as well as to follow sustainable strategies of companies.
Modern peculiarities of construction management that have not significantly changed since the 2000s are as follows. The consumers of the building industry expect that the services “can be supplied with relatively unsophisticated technology and inexpensive materials” (Chang and Swenson). Hence, there is a tendency for the sector to be in the framework of low technology. Due to the latter, there has been little research on and investment in the high technology implementation in the industry. However, scholars provide some notable ideas and findings on the issue; for instance, Li and Liu propose to utilize multirotor drone technologies in construction (1). For managers, it seems reasonable to concentrate on the organizational process without applying and seeking high tech.
Finally, today’s necessity of fast and efficient decision-making serves as a foundation for several common and vital functions of a construction manager. These are setting the objectives and the scope of the project, improving resource allocation, executing numerous operations, and building strong communication channels (Koutsogiannis). The manager is also required to be acquainted with and able to apply modern software that is available via both computers and smartphones.
In conclusion, construction management has walked a long way to the modern state of the art. It has become a necessity, and many higher educational establishments prepare qualified professionals in this area nowadays. Since the 1960s, construction management has been affected by a plethora of diverse factors. The above investigation allows assuming that these factors are the increasing complexity of the industry, the emergence of computers, occurring of different tools, no necessity for high technology, and the need for fast decision-making. The discussion revealed the fact the development of construction management was not smooth due to the early attempts to implement computing systems in the industry. However, this management has been crucial and has not lost its value with the flow of time.
Chang, Pao-Chi and Alfred Swenson. “Construction.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020, Web.
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“Construction project management: The ultimate guide.” projectmanager.com, Web.
Koutsogiannis, Anastasios. “Construction management 101: The ultimate guide.” Letsbuild, 2019, Web.
Li, Yan and Chunlu Liu. “Applications of multirotor drone technologies in construction management.” International Journal of Construction Management, vol. 12, no. 5, 2018, pp. 1–12.
Miller, Mike. “What is construction management?” Study.com, Web.
Sjoholt, Odd. “The evolution of the management systems in construction.” irbnet, 2003, Web.