Last edited 25 May 2021

Innovation in construction projects

Innovation is a wide concept that includes improvements in processes, products or services. It involves incorporating new ideas which generate changes that help solve the needs of a company and so increase its competitiveness.

The application of innovation to the construction industry is not straight forward, despite the importance of this sector in the development and growth of the wider economy. Every construction project is different, which means that construction companies have to adapt their processes and resources to suit each project. Every site is a singular prototype whose configuration changes over time. Construction works are located in different places, and involve the constant movement of personnel and machinery. In addition, the weather and other factors can prevent consultants from applying previous experience effectively.

This means that although innovative solutions to specific problems add to the overall experience and practices of a company, as innovation is undertaken on a one-off basis, it does not necessarily benefit the company as much as might be expected unless it is possible to incorporate it into the organisation's standard management processes.

Innovation needs to change from being just the application of good ideas to a process that can be managed, measured and controlled systematically. Consequently, the standardisation of innovation is very important. The key lies in considering innovation as a management process. Each part of the organisation can control and improve different aspects of innovation and integrate them into the rest of the company's processes.

A company that has a standardised management of innovation can reap significant rewards:

There are two families of European standards that focus on the standardisation of the innovation process: The British BS 7000-1 standards and the Spanish UNE 166000 standards:

Innovation in the construction industry can be standardised as long as it is treated as a process. This process can be seen to consist of the following stages:

The text in this article is based on an extract from CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT, by Eugenio Pellicer, Víctor Yepes, José M.C. Teixeira, Helder Moura and Joaquín Catala. Valencia, Porto, 2008.

The original manual is part of the Construction Managers' Library – created within the Leonardo da Vinci (LdV) project No: PL/06/B/F/PP/174014, entitled: “COMMON LEARNING OUTCOME FOR EUROPEAN MANAGERS IN CONSTRUCTION”. It is reproduced here in a modified form with the kind permission of the Chartered Institute of Building.

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