Applications of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and Blockchain-enabled smart contracts in construction

Jennifer Li*, Mohamad Kassem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The contribution of distributed ledger technology (DLT) (e.g. blockchain) and smart contracts to the digitalisation and digital transformation of the construction sector is nascent but rapidly gaining traction. ‘Systematic reviews’ of DLT and smart contract applications that are specific to the construction sector are missing. This paper performs an extensive systematic review of 153 DLT and smart contract papers specific to the design, construction and operation of built assets. The protocols and processes of a systematic review were adopted to ensure full transparency, accountability, reproducibility, and updateability of the results.

Through thematic analysis, we identify eight distinct themes of applications for DLT and smart contracts in construction: information management, payments, procurement, supply chain management, regulations and compliance, construction management and delivery, dispute resolution, and technological systems. Each theme identified was analysed to understand current capabilities, applications, and future developments. A cross-themes discussion revealed that DLT and smart contracts are ‘supplementary’ technologies that are used in combination with other technologies (e.g. BIM, IoT, cloud computing) as part of ‘technological systems’ that need to co-evolve in order to enable the themes' applications identified. Research into DLT and smart contracts in construction is rapidly moving from theoretical insights and frameworks into developing proofs-of-concept studies (27 studies) and testing them in case studies (20 studies). The next stage of research involving wider academic communities and industry-wide engagement is expected to begin uncovering the anticipated benefits of DLT and smart contracts through investments into technological systems and testing in real-world pilot studies.

The discussion of the themes identified from technology, policy, process, and society perspectives exposed the need for an extended socio-technical approach to the solution in order to deliver the necessary change and impact from the adoption of DLT and smart contracts at speed and scale. The results of this systematic review provide a noteworthy reference point for academics, practitioners and policy makers interested in the future development of DLT and smart contract applications in construction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103955
Number of pages26
JournalAutomation in Construction
Volume132
Early online date16 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2021

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