Durham - Risk Management and Decision Making


Risk Management and Decision Making


Research Conducted by Assistant Professor, Behzad Esmaeili
Behzad Esmaeili
SARMAD Research Group
The Safety, Risk Management, and Decision-making Research Group (SARMAD) believes that as academics and researchers in civil engineering, our breakthrough discoveries facilitate fundamental changes that enhance society’s quality of life.

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Title: Owner’s Guide to Maximizing Success in Integrated Projects
In pursuit of a successful project completion, owners must make key project-delivery decisions about organizational structure, team selection, and contract payment terms. These decisions have been shown to affect the performance and overall success of a project. For this reason, owners want to understand the relationships among these decisions and how these decisions affect project-cost, -time, and -quality outcomes. To respond to a dearth of data to support these complex decisions, our study offers an empirical database that compares the performance of various project-delivery decisions for large projects. In collaboration with the University of Colorado and Pennsylvania State University—and thanks to support from the Charles Pankow Foundation (CPF) and the Construction Industry Institute (CII)—we sent requests to more than 8500 project managers and built a database that includes data from more than 200 building projects from across the United States. We then apply various statistical methods to analyze the data and to provide how-to guidance for setting up and participating in a successful project. This type of quantitative evidence will improve the impact and reliability of key project decisions.
Title: The Impact of Team Selection on Project Performance
One early, high-impact decision that owners must make is the selection of their procurement method. Traditionally, the public sector prefers low-bid selection; however, projects initiated based on the lowest price may not meet quality requirements or—more importantly—may lead to adversarial relationships between stakeholders. Thus, some owners have begun to use best-value selection. Although previous studies indicated that best-value selection can provide significant benefits for some projects in terms of cost, time, and quality, no study specifically sought to understand the details of what happens during the project in terms of interactions among team members. To address this knowledge gap, this qualitative study explores the behavioral changes of stakeholders in best-value projects in the U.S. construction industry. Our research asks: How does best-value procurement influence stakeholder behavior in the design and construction industry? What challenges have owners/designers-builders/contractors faced through the best-value process? Which steps improve best-value implementation in the construction industry? What did the stakeholders learn from being involved in a best-value-procured project? By addressing these questions, this study helps practitioners and researchers explore team behavior in best-value projects.
Title: Disputes in Public Highway Projects
Given the general perspective that disputes arise out of a lack of understanding between parties and that traditional low-bid procurement methods for selecting contractors foster adversarial relationships, substantial efforts have been made to evolve alternative project delivery methods (PDMs) that create collaborative project environments to reduce disputes. While the idea of such PDMs is appealing, such efforts necessitate empirical tests to be validated. This research empirically investigates the impact of PDM on the occurrence of disputes. To achieve this objective, we sent a survey to several states’ DOTs to assess their procurement processes, dispute occurrences, and other factors known to affect disputes (partnering, repeat business, trust, and communication); each respondent provided information about three recently completed projects—particularly projects that employed diverse PDMs. Our study uses descriptive and inferential statistics to analyze these projects, and our empirical outcomes reveal that partnering, repeat business, collaboration, and trust play a substantial role in dispute occurrence.
Title: Diffusion of Building Information Modeling Functions in A/E/C Industry
Building Information Modeling (BIM) has restructured much of the construction industry by encouraging collaboration between various disciplines. However, due to a lack of common financial benchmarking for various BIM functions (clash detection, 4D modeling, facility management, energy analysis, et.), decisions regarding adopting BIM functions are usually made based on market pressure or on a manager’s intuition. While larger firms can afford such a trial-and-error process, the cost burden on small- to medium-sized firms is significant. Therefore, our work assembles the tacit knowledge of established BIM users into a simple algorithm to help new BIM users understand the advantages and disadvantages of implementing BIM functions in a project. The findings of our study contribute to both academia and practice: Research can use our results to benchmark their future studies, and practitioners can use our decision-making algorithm to select an appropriate BIM function for their projects.