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Burrell, P A (2017) Structural errors and failures in construction: is knowledge hidden?, Unpublished PhD Thesis, School of Engineering & the Built Environment, Anglia Ruskin University.

  • Type: Thesis
  • Keywords: building defects; errors; interview; litigation; professional indemnity; knowledge sharing; quality assurance
  • ISBN/ISSN:
  • URL: http://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/703821/
  • Abstract:
    Structural errors and failures within construction appear to be not reported to other professionals in the industry. This results in little advancement of knowledge and understanding, with the consequence that similar failings are repeated. For example, in 2016 Construction accounted for 6% of the Gross Domestic Product, of this 7% was lost in disputes. There were, however, 30 fatalities. A study of cases from the author's practice, into building defects, errors and failures was undertaken. This identified four areas: the education of chartered structural engineers, legislation, the management of construction projects and business ethics, as contributing to errors and failures. A series of open-ended, semi-structured interviews was also undertaken with senior professionals, including the judiciary, professors of engineering, global consultants, and professional indemnity insurers. Research findings revealed that technical knowledge is deliberately withheld due to non-disclosure clauses in mediated settlements, and through the practices of global professional indemnity insurers. A study of pass rates for chartered membership of the Institution of Structural Engineers showed a decrease, despite an increase of academic requirement. Companies that promote corporate social responsibility credentials often, however, seek the best commercial deal regarding litigation settlement. Furthermore, companies adopt a Friedman business model, which favours shareholders in preference to a Freeman approach, which recognises the interests of all stakeholders. Quality assurance systems used in other industries are not easily and effectively suited to construction practices. This research concludes there is a sound business case to share knowledge, which would reduce claims, increase profits and save lives. Primary legislation must be changed to compel a free exchange of technical knowledge regarding errors and structural failures. A 'no blame' repository needs to be established that should help reduce the adversarial nature of the construction industry. Additionally, the suitability of the academic degree curriculum for structural engineers needs to be reassessed.