Innovation Diffusion within the UK Construction Sector: a study of the adoption of 4D BIM

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The construction industry suffers from a time predictability problem. To address this, previous research has investigated various improvement strategies, including the exploitation of innovations. An innovation is some ‘thing’, unfamiliar to an entity, which can facilitate product, process or systemic improvements. Innovation diffusion theory (IDT) is the body of work concerned with explaining how some innovations successfully ‘stick’, whilst others fail to propagate. These phenomena occur across society, but construction is particularly perceived to suffer from a low ‘innovation rate’. 4D BIM is an innovation with potential to provide construction planning improvements that can address the time predictability problem, but there are concerns around its prospective industry absorption. This research investigates the applicability of classic IDT to the adoption of 4D BIM by the UK construction industry. A mixed-method study was undertaken, informed by a pragmatist philosophy. It combines an initial exploratory stage that uses case study and questionnaire survey research, with a subsequent explanatory stage concurrently employing a second questionnaire survey with semi-structured interviews. Classified as a modular technical process-based innovation, use of 4D BIM is found to advance construction planning. It increases feedback opportunities, planning efforts, and the quality and validity of the plans produced, whilst also having potential for improving project time performance. It is established that 4D BIM usage is principally limited to work-winning, methods planning, and the visualisation of construction processes, alleviating problems of communication and understanding. The importance of existing diffusion concepts of compatibility and trialability, are reinforced, and several new contributions are made. These include: how organisations using BIM risk employing hybrid project information delivery processes, resulting in duplication of effort and inefficiency; how personal use of 4D BIM is linked to organisational characteristics; and what the usual time lag between first awareness and adoption is. Furthermore, an existing innovation-decision process model is built upon, with additional stages, decision- action points and outcomes added. This new model can assist in the future adoption/rejection decisions of such modular technical process-based innovations.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Greenwood, David, Supervisor
  • Johansen, Eric, Supervisor
  • Conroy Dalton, Ruth, Supervisor
Award date10 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2017


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