Improving the performance of civil engineering projects through the integrated design process

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Abstract

Purpose: Civil engineering projects around the world have been underperforming for a long time. While the complexity of these projects will continue to increase, there is an urgent need to perform better. Although the integrated design process is critical for project success, the literature lacks studies describing the link to project performance. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the dominant variables that affect the integrated design process and consequently project performance. Design/methodology/approach: A multiple case study was conducted to determine the dominant variables that affect the integrated design process and project performance. The research included four projects. Semi-structured interviews were the main source of data. Findings: The cases indicated that the extent to which an integrated approach is achieved in the design process is essential for project performance. This applies to the integration of stakeholders’ interests as well as the integration of disciplines. Above all, it was concluded that the project team participants’ competencies for integration are a dominant factor for project performance, as the integrated design process has changed from a technical challenge to an integrative one. Originality/value: This study provides insights into the dominant variable of the integrated design process that affects project performance, which is underexposed in the literature. The study results reveal the importance of competencies related to integration and adoption of the design problem context, which are not yet included in civil engineering design methods. In this respect, empathy is introduced as a new and critical competence for the civil engineering industry, which needs further research.