Deakin University
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Spotlight on construction cost overrun research: superficial, replicative and stagnated

conference contribution
posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Dominic Doe Ahiaga-DagbuiDominic Doe Ahiaga-Dagbui, S D Smith, P E D Love, F Ackermann
Construction projects routinely overrun their cost estimates. A plethora of studies have thus been dedicated to investigating the root causes, sizes, distribution and nature of overruns. The causes range from a poor understanding of the impact of systemicity and complexity projects, unrealistic cost targets and misguided trade-offs between project scope, time and cost to suspicions of foul play and even corruption. In spite of the vast attention dedicated to the problem of cost overrun, there has been limited evidence to support the claim that the size or occurrence of cost overruns is reducing in practice. A review of the literature reveals that it may not be an exaggeration to claim that the bulk of our current cost overrun research may be largely inadequate and deficient to deal with the complexity posed by construction projects. This paper provides a critique of current cost overrun research and suggests that the adoption of systems thinking is required to better understand the nature of cost overruns. We explore some of the embedded methodological weaknesses in the approaches adopted in a majority of cost overrun research, particularly the lack of systems thinking and demonstrable causality. We reach the following conclusion - cost overrun research has largely stagnated in the refinement and advancement of the knowledge area. It has largely been superficial and replicative. A significant paradigm and methodological shift may be required to address this perennial and complex problem faced in construction project delivery.



Association of Researchers in Construction Management. Conference (31st : 2015 : Lincoln, Eng.)


Association of Researchers in Construction Management Conference


863 - 872


Association of Researchers in Construction Management


Lincoln, Eng.

Place of publication

Lincoln, Eng.

Start date


End date






Publication classification

E Conference publication; E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

[2015, ARCOM]



Title of proceedings

ARCOM 2015 : Proceedings of the 31st Annual Association of Researchers in Construction Management Conference

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