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Necessary and unnecessary complexity in construction

Pannanen, A and Koskela, LJ 2005, Necessary and unnecessary complexity in construction , in: The 1st International Conference on Built Environment Complexity, 11-14 September 2005, Liverpool UK.

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The nature of complexity varies as construction progresses. This paper presents concepts and practices with which project (knowledge) management must foster complexity when it is necessary and dampen complexity when it is unnecessary in order to generate value and control time and costs. Complexity management has to be adjusted to the current state of the project. Before and during programming the building as a solid object can not be predicted; the user activities, extent, mass and materials are unknown. We might renovate, build a new building or we might not invest at all. The problem is inductive since there are several correct answers, not right or wrong but good or poor. After design and before on-site construction we know the object and its performances, the single “right answer” for construction. The system is deductive. The building process is initially inductive and becomes predominantly deductive, being complex all the time. The destruction of an inductive system can be avoided only if there is enough variety in the controller. Only a management system which contains variation can produce alternatives in a creative way to keep to goals in spite of disturbance. It is called necessary or requisite variety. If a problem “do we need an activity?” is dealt with simultaneously as the question “where would it be located in a plan?”, there are limitless possible alternatives. If we first answer “no” to the first question, there are no alternatives left. Does the “Where it will be” answer create more valuable information to the question “do we need it”? If not, the variables are orthogonal. Combining orthogonal variables causes more iterations and can be called unnecessary complexity. In the beginning of construction the building as an object can be predicted. However, due to the peculiarities of construction, there is a lot of complexity confronting the production phase. The issue is to consider whether any peculiarity could be eliminated or at least reduced. In operations management, three different conceptualizations should be simultaneously used: production as transformation, flow and value generation. From these, the transformation model is in an auxiliary position, whereas the flow model addresses the time-dependent complexity and value generation addresses the time-independent complexity. In the framework of these conceptualizations, the insights and principles of complexity thinking should be applied as appropriate.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Complexity, project management, knowledge management, workplace planning
Themes: Subjects / Themes > T Technology > TH Building construction
Subjects / Themes > T Technology > TS Manufactures > TS155-194 Production management. Operations management
Built and Human Environment
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment
Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment > Centre for Built Environment Sustainability and Transformation (BEST)
Journal or Publication Title: Proceedings of First International Conference on Built Environment Complexity
Publisher: University of Liverpool
Refereed: Yes
Depositing User: LJ Koskela
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2010 10:15
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 01:15
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