Construction Project Delay: Causes and Effects Dissertation - Essay Prowess

Construction Project Delay: Causes and Effects Dissertation


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Construction Project Delay: Causes and Effects


Construction industry is a significant pillar of any country economy and negative impact of this sector could jeopardise the economy. However, construction project delays are not uncommon in different economies. The aim of the current study was to identify the causes of construction project delays and their effects.  Primary and secondary research were applied and analysis done in relation to the British Library at St Pancras construction that had experienced significant delays. The study included 25 respondents consisting of contractors, engineers, project managers, construction company employees, and project owners.  Using the relative importance index (RII) funding-related factors were found to be the leading causes of construction delays, followed by planning factors, and then contract-related factors. Similar trend was found for the construction of the British Library. In addition, in the case of the British Library, politics, undefined timeline, and lack of a defined project committee in the early stage of the project contributed to the delays. Time overrun and cost overrun were found to be major effects of construction delays. Other effects included arbitrations, mistrust to the owner, and tainted reputation. Recommendations are given on ways to avoid delays in future construction projects.

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background

Plainly defined, delay refers to lateness in doing something, or doing something at a slow rate than it is expected. Therefore, in the construction industry it is delivery of a project result in late compared to the agreed-up time in the contract. Contract delay has serious implications to both the project holder and the project developer side Kikwasi (n.d). On the side of the project holder delay is associated with income through income loss due to lateness manufacture services and lack of space or being dependent on the services that are already on existence. On the other side, the project developer incurs high costs losses associated with lengthened period of work and late submission of the project, increased cost of materials than the planned, increased cost of labour Kikwasi (n.d).

Delays and disruptions are some of the challenges experienced while undertaking a construction project. Delay in the sector is the time overrun following the completion of a contract (Sivaprakasam et al., 2017). Also, it can be time overrun beyond the set date by the parties for delivering the project. A project’s success relies on proper programming, scheduling, and control of the resources as well as project activities by ensuring that time is well-managed (Gibson, 2008). The cost and utility should also be given priority. Although there are various changes in the construction sector such as the introduction of technology and new project management techniques, delays in construction projects are still being experienced.

This research as investigating the cause and effect of delays in construction project in relation to the delay of British Library at St. Pancras in London. The construction of the British Library is used as an example as it was delayed for about ten years. The research will focus on the delay of major construction project delays in the UK.

Currently, the problem delays of huge construction projects are common in the UK. For instance, in 2019 two major construction projects were delayed. They include the construction of Tottenham Hotspur football stadium in north London (Plimmer, 2019). The project was projected to be completed in 2018, however, the date was pushed to March 2019. It led to increase of cost from £850m to £1bn. The delay was linked complicated technology that raised safety issues. Another major construction project that has been experienced in the UK is the construction of Crossrail. The opening of the project has been pushed to 2020 and the costs are expected to rise to about £17.6bn. The project is considered as the biggest construction project in Europe. It was projected to open in December 2018; however, the date was pushed. The delay was caused by lack of reliable pipeline of infrastructure projects, thus, minimising investment in innovation and skills. Most of the contractors argue that they had a hard time recruiting general on-site employees. The problem has also been experienced in other construction projects such as Battersea Power Station construction project. According to Robinson (2018), various construction projects in the UK have experienced delays. They include Wembley Stadium whereby, there were plans to demolish the old stadium in 2000 and to complete the new one in 2003. However, the demolition of the stadium started in 2002 and the construction started in 2003. The delay was caused by the rising costs, whereby, initially the planned project was estimated at £475m, however, it later increased to £757m (Robinson, 2018). Channel tunnel is another construction project that experienced a delay in the UK. Its construction took 20% longer and the budget increased by 80%. The construction was planned to start in 1988 and take five years to complete, however, it was delayed by one year. The construction cost was estimated to be £2.6bn but increased to £4.6bn (Robinson, 2018). One of the recent construction delays in the UK is Crossrails construction. It was supposed to be opened in December 2018; however, its opening has been pushed to 2019.

According to a report by KPMG (2016), the UK construction industry has a reputation for undependable delivery times as well as costs. In 2015, although 69% of projects were completed within the set budget, only 40% were completed on time. According to Shah (2016), 70% of the UK construction projects run by public departments and agencies experience delays. Romei (2019) maintains that currently, the UK construction sector suffered huge set-back due to the Brexit uncertainty that has affected client confidence and delayed building projects. The construction industry contributes an estimate of 6% to the UK economy. Also, it accounts for around 7% of jobs in the UK (Romei, 2019). Therefore, a fall in construction activity would have a negative impact on the economy. Apart from the UK, other countries have also been struggling with construction project delays. Most of the construction projects were completed beyond the set time. Such delays may cause cost overruns in the projects which may lead to other problems.

Additionally, delays in construction projects may lead to lawsuits between the project owners and contractors. It may also lead to loss of productivity and revenue. The project contract may be terminated due to such delays (Charytonowicz, 2018). Some parties may decide to use aggressive schedules as a remedy to get back on track. However, they may end up being costly and may affect the work quality due to increased disturbance of work as well as lack of productivity.  Some of the effects of delay include reduced client satisfaction and profitability. They can also cause conflicts due to increased costs (Burr, 2015). Mainly, delays in a construction project are caused by a high level of disagreement within a project which may cause minimal collaboration. Additionally, some people decide to sub-contract which may lead to delays. In some cases, the project team may decide to add new designs as the project is on-going which may cause delays. Other causes of delays include ineffective project management and lack of proper leadership. Also, methods utilised for procurement can lead to delay in a construction project.

The foregoing factors are some of the causes and effects identified in the current research focus on the British Library in St. Pancras. The library opened in 1998 following the 20-years of delays and cost overruns (Cookson, 2017). The delays were mainly caused by cases of political interference. At first, the size of the sized of the project was reduced by some politicians (Kennedy, 2015). Some politicians felt that the then design was a waste of money. The delay of the building was also attributed to the constant change of design by the architect. At the time, some of the politicians and the public named it as one of the ugliest buildings globally.

1.2 Aim of the research project

The aim of this paper was to identify the professional outlook on the causes of delay in construction projects by using the British Library at St. Pancras in UK as an example that relate to other projects in the UK and globally.

1.3 Research objectives and Questions

The main objectives of the research include considering different kinds of degree of delays and causes in major construction projects.

  1. To understand what are construction delays and how do they affect quality, cost and time of a project
  2. Understanding how project financing contributes to project delay
  3. To understand how project planning leads to delay of a construction project.
  4. The research will also focus on understanding how the project contract can lead to construction project delay and how contractors contribute to construction project delays.
  5. To find out the causes and effects of delay in the construction of British Library at St. Pancras
  6. To establish measures that are taken to prevent or mitigate construction project delays.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Chapter introduction

This section of the research paper reviews various literature that focuses on delays in major construction projects globally and the UK. It mainly focuses on the construction of buildings, the causes of delay and their effects.  It offers a summary of previous work that relates to the topic of the current research.

2.2 Theoretical framework

In different literature, delays have been classified according to their “excusability”. There are excusable non-compensable delays which neither the contractor nor the owner can be blamed because it beyond their control (Hamzah, 2011). Excusable compensable delays are attributable to the project owner and thus the contract has a right to be compensated. Non-excusable delays are associated with contractor factors. When the project owner and contractor are liable for the delay is a concurrent delay (Hamzah et al., 2011). However, to confirm whether the delays are excusable or compensable, several factors that lead to delay are assessed.

2.3 Construction delays and how do they affect quality, cost and time of a project

There are specific factors that are unique to the construction industry, as Sivaprakasam et al. (2017) maintain that the construction industry is important in economic development. In some cases, constructions go beyond the initial time set for completion as well as cost estimates. Nevertheless, to reduce delays in construction project requires a company to identify its causes. Durdyev and Hosseini (2018) maintain that there are five leading types of project delay. They include critical, non-critical, synchronised, compensable and justifiable delays. Critical and non-critical delays focus on the development of activity on the critical path and impact on the completion schedule (Durdyev and Hosseini, 2018). Concurrent delays, on the other hand, involve the occurrence of two different delays at the same time. Unforeseeable delays are the ones that cannot be controlled. They can be compensated and excused as they are beyond the contractors’ control. However, some delays cannot be excused as they can be controlled.

Ojoko et al. (2016) maintain that delays in project delivery and their effects are the main problems in the construction sector. The researchers carried out a study in Nigeria to help understand the causes and effects of delays in the construction industry. Aydin and Mihlayanlar (2018) argue that delay in construction projects are common in the building sector and they will remain even in the future. Hence, it is important to predict and assess the causes of delay thoroughly so that necessary precautions can be undertaken. The researchers conducted a study of causes of construction delay for local and small-scale projects in Edirne City Centre.

2.4 Causes of construction delay

In a literature review on the causes of delay Daba and Pitroda (2018) outline five categories of delay factors. These are consultancy related factors, contractor related factors, owner related factors, external related factors, and resource related factors. Kersh (2018) also maintains that employing irresponsible contractors can cost the project more. The contractors can include more expenses and lead to legal exposure which can have a negative impact on the project. Sharafadeen et al. (2015) researched the causes of delays in the construction project in Nigeria. Based on the outcomes of the research the researchers found out that lack of funds which lead to a lack of materials highly contributed to delay in constructions projects. Other factors that the author mentioned include poor communication, employees’ absenteeism, and unskilled workers as well as government policy. Another work that focuses on delay in the construction project is by Durdye and Hosseini (2018). The research offers a comprehensive list of what causes delays on construction projects. According to the research weather conditions plays a part in the delay of the construction project. Unexpected conditions can lead to delay and in such cases, they are excusable as one cannot control them. A contractor may have a hard time scheduling the project due to the severe weather. Another cause of delay pointed out in the study is the lack of proper communication and coordination.

According to research Aydin and Mihlayanlar (2018), poor time management plays a huge part in delay in the construction project.  Additionally, according to Ojoko et al. (2016) causes of delay included the delay in short-term payment, lack of proper financing as well as scheduling and alteration orders. Other causes of delays identified in a building project in Nigeria included lack of proper monitoring and feedback, changes in contract documents and insufficient essential materials. Kersh (2018) maintains that bad subcontractors can affect the construction project. Most cases developers and general contractors hire subcontracts that pay employees off the books. They are also involved in illegal schemes to reduce costs and gain profits. They also use bad checks to pay their workers. In case a worker consults necessary authority for help they are always threatened.

According to Durdye and Hosseini (2018), the construction industry has a fragmented structure. Different stakeholders are involved in completing the construction project. Mainly, conflicts between the stakeholders are linked to poor communication and a lack of proper coordination. Such issues can affect the project’s schedule leading to delays. Planning is another cause of project delay highlighted in the research. Lack of proper planning can lead to project delay (Nagata et al., 2018). Mainly, delays in a construction project are caused by a high level of disagreement within a project which may cause minimal collaboration.

A study by Kikwasi (n.d) on delays in Tanzanian construction project identified five cause of delays. The causes of delay according Kikwasi are delayed contractor payments, changes in design, and problems in funding, delays of information, valuation disagreements, poor project management, and issues of compensation. The study included forty respondents, where they were the above causes were ranked are the main causes but there were others that were not considered to be significant delay factors; these included acts of God, shortage of material, lack of material and equipment, and shortage of skills. This is an indication that if the main factors associated delay (e.g., problems in funding, delays of information, valuation disagreements, poor project management, and issues of compensation) are addressed there can be no excuse for project delay. Similar findings were made by Durdyev, Omarov and Ismail (2017) in study that was conducted in Cambodia among consultants and contractors. They categorised the causes of delay into management, material and equipment, project, workforce, and external causes. However, unlike Kikwasi, in Durdyev et al additional factors such as unrealistic scheduling of project, project complexity, poor site management, late payment, and construction site accidents, and subcontractor delays were ranked as the major cause of project delays.  The current study is going to establish if there are other significant factors that contribute to construction project delays or it is only those already identified in these previous studies.

Adam et al. (2015) maintain that for a long time, the construction industry has suffered from costs surpassing the budget limits and completion times going beyond the set time. The issue has mainly been common in large public constructions whereby, costs escalate, and delays occur regularly. Construction project delays lead to cost overruns. Whereby, the project owner is forced to pay more money for the project. Additionally, project delays can cause to a bad reputation of the construction company. Mostly, any future client may not want to be associated with the contractor. It can as well lead to legal issues for the contractor.

Funding was suggested to be main factor that causes road construction delays in Kenya as reported in a thesis by Kimemia (2015) among 55 respondents. Out of these 55 respondents, 45 said that the government does not give enough finances to road construction projects and thus delays in their completion. Also, Mydin, Sani Taib and Alias (2014) identified financial problems as one of the major causes of construction project delays.

In a review by Venkatesh and Venkatesan (2018) it is identified that the ranking of critical causes of construction project delays vary between countries and between developing and developed countries. For instance, they revealed that delays in payments by project owners, design and planning issues, and financial difficulties by contractors as the top three causes of project delays in developing countries. On the other hand, in developed countries the top three causes included ground or weather problems, design and planning issues, and supplier & subcontractor issues.  It is the interest of the current to ascertain if there are difference in causes of delay in the UK compared to other countries.

It has been noted that most of the previous studies involved high-ranking individuals in the construction industry such as registered contractors, consultants, engineers, and project managers; however, the low-ranking individuals such as “common” construction employees such as builders are rarely included. In the current study, the common employees will be included.

Various solutions are implemented to deal with cases of delay in the construction project. One approach is the utilisation of liquidated damages. In this case, the contract should state that in case of any delays the contractor may pay punitive damages. The contractor should be held accountable for any delay that occurs (Adam et al., 2015). Nevertheless, not all delays can be linked to the contractor. Some delays can be excused, and the owner compensated. First, in the excusable delays, neither the owner nor the contractor can be blamed. However, those that are compensable the client may be required to compensate the contractor in case he/she contributes to the delay. For instance, the client may decide to make last-minute changes to the design thus causing a delay in the completion of the said project.

Additionally, there are those delays that cannot be excused. In this case, the contractor should be held accountable as it means that the delays could be controlled (Keane and Caletka, 2015). The information shows that although the contractor needs to be held accountable in some construction project delay, they are not always responsible. Hence, considering the effect of delays, it is important for the project manager to mitigate the issues by first understanding its causes. It will help the project managers on how the variables can be prevented.

2.6 Chapter summary

From the literature review it has been established that causes of construction project delays have been identified and assessed in different countries and in different construction sectors; for example Cyprus (Aydın and Mihlayanlar,  2018) Tanzania (Kikwasi, n.d), Cambodia (Durdyev, Omarov and Ismail, 2017), and Nigeria (Ojoko et al., 2016). Most of these are based in developing countries, as there is a rarity of such studies in developed countries such as the UK. Although it has been shown that the causes of construction project delays are near-similar across different territories, the ranking of these causes may differ from country to country. Therefore, the current study was aimed at sealing that gap by establishing the main causes of construction project delays in the UK based on their ranking. In addition, it tries to uncover if there are unique factors that are related with the delay of the British Library at St. Pancras.

Chapter 3: Methodology

This section of the research highlights the research approach. In this case, the research design is explained. Additionally, the target population is highlighted and the tools that were used to gather data. Also, the data collection method is well analysed and well as the approaches that will be used to analyse the gathered data.

To gain the research objective qualitative and quantitative research methodology were used. First, the qualitative research method is efficient for small samples and the results can be measured and quantified (Taylor et al., 2016). The research method help in giving a thorough description and assessment of the research topic. The aim of the qualitative approach is that it relies on the skills and abilities of the person carrying out the research. It is utilised to gain reasons as well as opinions (Lapan et al., 2012). It offers insights into the issue and helps in coming up with ideas. In qualitative research, a person can use interviews and focus groups to gather information. On the other hand, the quantitative research methodology is structured. It utilises measurable data to come up with facts. Therefore, the research methodologies are appropriate for the study.

3.1 Research Design, Research approach and Research type.

The research used descriptive as well as a correlative research design. The correlative research design help in assessing the link between independent variables and the dependent variable (Bajpai, 2011). The descriptive research design helps in gaining new knowledge concerning the topic. (Ang, 2014). Descriptive research include collecting data and using the data to develop the research question. It focuses on providing the link between construction project delays which is the dependent variable and independent variables that include contractors’ credibility, the planning of the project, availability of materials and poor weather as well as project financing. The data collection method was done through interviews with different people working in construction in the UK. The respondents included contractors, project owners who have had issues with project delays and project managers.

Questionnaires were used in the current research whereby; the participants will be emailed a questionnaire concerning the research topic. However, before the questionnaires are sent to the participants, they were informed about the time the email was to be sent.  Data was also be collected from secondary sources they include books and peer-reviewed journals that focus on construction project delays. The secondary sources helped in gathering data from different projects in different countries and compare it with the primary data gathered in the UK. The secondary data also helped in assessing information concerning project delay of construction of the British Library at St. Pancras in London.

The research aim was achieved by using both primary and secondary data. The instruments that will be used in the research include the questionnaires (Dodiya et al., 2015). The target population was twenty-six participants. They include construction contractors working in the UK. Other target groups include project managers who are tasked with overseeing the construction project. Other participants that were involved in the project include individuals working in the construction sector. They include consultants, engineers as well as individuals tasked with auditing constructions. The targeted population should understand how the construction project works, in this case, they should have experience working in a construction company. They should also be directly or indirectly affected by construction delays. They help in understanding construction project delays, their causes as well as effects. The aim of choosing the type of population is that they help in gathering current information concerning the construction project. The population was mainly be gathered from building construction sector. They have both past and current information about the causes and effects of project delays in the construction sector.  Therefore, they should have prior experience working in a project that was faced with delays.

The sampling frame is the list of the entire population whereby the sample is selected. Sampling refers to the process of selecting the number of participants from a population. The sample size of the current population includes 5 contractors, 6 engineers, 5 project managers and 5 employees in the construction industry. Also, 5 project owners that have been affected by project delay. In total, the sample population was to include 26 participants.  The participants be emailed questionnaires whereby; they will not be needed to include their names or where they work. The participants were randomly selected from different companies.

Relative Importance Index (RII) was used in analysing the impact level of different causes of delays in this study. RII involves combination of ratings of each factor by the participants and establishing a mean rating point (Gündüz, Nielsen and Özdemir, 2013).

The RII is represented as


Where w – respondent’s rating of each factor (5- very high impact, 4- high impact, 3- medium impact, 2- low impact, and 1 – very low impact). A represents the highest impact (i.e., 5) and N is the usable sample size.  RII is considered to be a reliable technique because it has been used many previous studies.

Table 1 Research Methodology and Methods

Qualitative Research Methodology Quantitative Research Methodology Secondary Data
Methods Books
One-on-one Interviews Questionnaires Peer reviewed Journals
Telephone interviews Government websites


Table 2 Target population and Number

Target Population Number
Contractors 5
Engineers 6
Project Managers 5
Construction Company employees 5
Project owners that have been affected by project delay 5
Total 26


3.2 Access to Data and Research Ethics

First, the privacy of the participants was considered throughout the research process. Their names and companies were not be included in the research questionnaires. Additionally, they were required to sign a consent agreeing to participate in the research process. They were informed about the need for the research and how it would benefit the construction industry. This was to allow them to make informed decisions. After agreeing to participate in the research process, they were informed about the interview schedules. They were also informed in advance about the questionnaires. The secondary data used in the research was up to date. It should also be peer-reviewed to ensure that it is not biased.

3.3 Limitations

The limitations of the research methodology are that some participants may refuse to participate in the research at the last minute. They may also take time to hand-in their questionnaires. This may delay the research process, some of the factors that may cause the delay to include busy schedules. Also, some of the participants may be biased thus affecting the credibility of the research. The downside of using secondary data is that at times it can be hard getting credible sources. There are various sources on the internet and some of them are not credible. Also, it can be hard getting updated sources that focus on the research topic. Therefore, to minimise these limitations it is important to explain to the participants the importance of the research. It is also important to ensure that they have enough time to answer the questionnaires to avoid delays.

Chapter 4: Results, Findings, and analysis

4.1 Introduction

In this chapter the results of the survey are presented after the analysis was done.  The research included primary and secondary data. In the primary research, twenty five out of 26 expected responses were received, which is more than 90% response rate, which is acceptable for analysis and for report in the current research. Among the 25 respondents 5 were contractors, 6engineers, 5 project managers, 5 construction company employees, and 4 project owners. The data from each questionnaire was verified by going through to ensure that there was no any participant’s identifying information or any information that had been left out. After verification the data from each questionnaire was coded and entered into Microsoft excel for analysis. The data was analysed for frequencies and RII was calculated for each group of delay factors.  In addition, secondary data was used, which is also used in the analysis.

4.2 Years of experience in the construction industry

Most of the respondents had a 5 to 10 years of experience a shown in the table below.

Table 4.1: Years of experience of the respondents

Years of experience Respondents (frequency) Percent (%)
0-4 6 24
5-10 11 44
11-14 3 12
14+ 5 20


4.3 Causes of construction project delays

Causes of construction delays are wide ranging, and thus it is important to identify the major factors that are associated with construction delay in the UK. For the purpose of this study three (3) factors were included and participants rated them accordingly. These are project financing, project planning, and project contract. RII was used in ranking these factors based on their level of impact.

Table 4.2: Rank of Causes of delay

Cause of delay RII Rank
Project financing 0.87 1
Project planning 0.84 2
Project contract 0.75 3


The results indicated that project financing is the main cause of construction project delays according to the respondents. The project planning was ranked second and project contract ranked third. However, as seen in tables 4.3 to 4.7  below project financing has maintained the top rank  as the major cause of project delay when the responses from the different respondents’ categories. Contractors, engineers, and project owners ranked project planning and project contract as the second and third causes respectively, while for project managers and common employees, project contract came before planning.

4.3.2 Causes delay according to different respondent categories


According to the contractors, project financing factors were the leading causes of construction project delays followed by project planning factors as shown in the table below.

Table 4.3

Cause of delay RII Rank
Project financing 0.88 1
Project planning 0.87 2
Project contract 0.84 3


Table 4.4: Leading causes of project delays according to Engineers,

Cause of delay Rank
Project financing 1
Project planning 2
Project contract 3


Table 4.5: Leading causes of project delays according to project managers,

Cause of delay Rank
Project financing 1
Project contract 2
Project planning 3


Table 4.6: Leading causes of project delays according to construction company employees

Cause of delay Rank
Project financing 1
Project contractor 2
Project planning 3


Table 4.7: Leading causes of project delays according to project owners.

Cause of delay Rank
Project financing 1
Project planning 2
Project contract 3


4.3.1 Financing-related delay 

The study revealed that financing related delay top the list of causes of delay in construction projects. This factor had an overall RII of 0.87. This study concurs with a Saudi Arabian study by Al-Kharashi and Skitmore (2009) in which financial problems were found to be the most significant factors associated with large construction projects. The study was done through questionnaires and the respondents were consultants, clients, and contractors. The specific financial-related factors include delays in the release of the money by the project owner and inadequate finances to support the completion of the project. Similarly, Hamzah et al (2011) and James et al (2014) identified financial difficulties as the leading causes of project delays. It is also in agreement with Alaghbari et al (2018) who established financial factors as the leading causes of construction project delays in Sana’a, Yemen. The study noted that at the top of the list were progress payments delays and financial difficulties on the side of the project owners. However, there are other studies that have finance-related factors not being the leading cause of project delay, for instance, Aydin and Mihlayanlar (2018), found the finance-related issue as the second in the ranking.

4.3.2 Planning –related factors

In overall, planning-related factors came second after the financial causes with an RII of 0.84. Not many studies have focused on how planning affects construction project delays, but some have noted poor planning, in general, is associated with delays. One study that has been specific to the planning and design phase is one by Yang and Wei (2010). Yang and Wei (2010), identified changes in the requirements of the client as the top-most cause of delay in the planning phase. Other main planning-related factors concerning project delays were the client’s complex administration process, ill-integrated or lack of sufficient basic project data, unfinished client-furnished item, and slow expropriation of land. Other studies have not looked at planning as general factor concerning construction project delays but has integrated some of its elements as part of other factors, for example, Aigbavboa, Thwala and Mukula (2014) included change of design, delayed site hand-over, and delay in drawing approval under the owner-related causes bracket. That can be a good categorisation because delay at the planning phase is usually associated with the project owner. Nevertheless, improper planning by the contractor was identified as one of the top causes of delay by Aziz (2013). In fact, ineffective project planning and scheduling topped the list of contractor-related factors (Aziz, 2013).

4.3.3 Contract- related causes 

In the current study, contract-related factors were ranked third regarding construction projects delays with an RII of 0.74. Studies have found contractor-related factors as either the top-most or second significant causes of construction project delays, however, the elements that are put under this category of delays vary from one study to another and thus the discrepancies in their results. For example, Aziz (2013) included thirteen (13) elements under contractor-related category while in their review Upadhyay, Agrawal, and Jain (2016) included five factors. Examples of contract-related factors include inadequate contractor experience, changing subcontractors, poor construction methods, ineffective coordination and communication between the consultant, owner, and contractor, unreliable subcontractors, project team incompetence, and poor site management (Aziz, 2013). In addition, slow decision-making, slow mobilisation of labour, poor contract policies, and inefficient materials’ procurement have been reported by Daba and Pitroda (2018) to be among the contractor-related causes of delay. Furthermore, according to Kumar (2016) inadequate experience, ignorance, and poor risk management are the main contractor-related construction delay cause. In another study, Hisham and Yahya (2016) identified contractor-related factors, particularly subcontractor problems and poor site management, as the leading causes of delays. However, unlike most of the other studies, Hisham and Yahya (2016) had different categories for contractor-related factors, contract-related factors, and contract relationship factors. Under contract-related factor were the change of orders, and errors and inconsistencies in the contract, while for contract relationship there was disputes and negotiation issues, poor communication between involved parties and inappropriate organisational structure. The contractor-related factors as associated with non-excusable project delays and thus many construction projects are likely to avoid them.

4.4 Effects of construction delay 

The current study did not include the effects of construction project delays in the primary data questionnaire, but secondary research was conducted. According to a study by Aigbavboa et al (2014), time and cost overrun are the top-most effects of construction project delays. In the same study, the bad reputation of either owners or the construction team were ranked second and third respectively alongside claims which also took the third position. Similar findings were made by James et al (2014) where time and cost overrun were ranked first and second respectively; however, in this study, the third position was taken by under-utilisation and wastage of resources and man-power. Akin to Aigbavboa et al (2014) and James et al (2014) Hisham and Yahya (2016) found time and cost overrun as the leading effects while total abandonment of the project was ranked third. Hisham and Yahya (2016) also identified that both contractors and consultants ranked time overrun and cost overrun as the top effects, but there were discrepancies in other effects. For example, while consultants ranked litigation as the fourth leading effect, for contractors the 4th rank was arbitration and litigation was sixth. According to a study by Gebrehiwet and Luo (2017) the impacts of project delays from the top are cost overruns, time overrun, and termination of the contract, arbitration, and litigation.

4.6 Preventing and mitigating construction project delays

Previous studies have recommended several strategies to prevent or mitigate delays in construction projects. In a review by Venkatesh and Venkatesan (2018) identify eight strategies to prevent delays based on recommendations from different studies. The strategies included timely payment of progress payment s, minimising orders’ change as the project progresses, proper design and planning and confirming their feasibility before commencing the projects, financial management and planning before project begins. Also, noted by Aziz and Abdel-Hakam (2016) owners are supposed to employ consultants and designers who are experienced.

4.5 Analysis 

This analysis involves comparing the delay of the construction of the British Library with the study results and findings. The British Library at St. Pancras the UK’s national library and it has been reported as the world’s largest library in terms of catalogued items. Initially, it was part of the British Museum but from 1973 it was made an independent department through an act of parliament. However, the building remained attached to the museum until 1997 when a new purpose-building was opened in 1998. It is argued that is the 20th-century country’s public building that is “largest, most expensive, and most controversial (Kennedy, 2015). The construction of the library did not go ahead smoothly following its inception in the 1970s and it took 20 years to complete its construction, which was way beyond what was initially planned. From the study findings, it has been shown that financial-related factors are the overall leading causes of construction project delays. However, one identifiable characteristic of these studies is that most are based in developing countries, so it would be interesting to find out that financial-related factors are also the leading causes of delays in construction projects a country like the UK. As noted from the primary data results, finance factors were ranked highest regarding causes of delays in construction projects by the different respondents who were included in the study. Regarding, the British Library, it could be expected that funding would not be an issue because it was a government project through an Act of parliament, however, as it is noted in the 1990 Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General financial the construction of the building was faced with financial issues. For example, the project’s first stage was forced to be divided into two sub-stages due to outcry on public spending in 1979 (Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (1990). It means that finance was a major contributing factor in the delay British Library construction project.

Planning-related factors as shown from primary research comes second after finance-related factors as the main causes of construction project delays but the secondary research findings were varying between studies. Nevertheless, the planning phase can be a source of serious project delays as shown in studies such as Yang and Wei (2010) and Aziz (2013). Similarly, in the case of the British Library construction project, planning factors contributed to the delay. For example, there was no clear management authority in the construction of the library as shown in the Comptroller and Auditor General report (1990). There was no commitment by ministers in construction of any phase of the building, the committee that was mandated to oversee and make critical decisions had stayed for several years without meeting. In addition, the design of the library building was surrounded by issues that led to the delay. This is evidenced by the denunciation of the library by Prince Charles in and at one time being termed as the ugliest building by the parliament (Kennedy, 2015), which shows that there were disagreements in the planning stage. At the same time, there were changes in orders on the construction plans by the government, which affected the scheduling of the project. All these indicate that planning-related factors contributed to the delay in the construction of the library.

Contractor or contract-related factors played a role in the delay of the Library construction. First, there were orders changes in the early stages of the construction the part of the building had to be redesigned. Initially, a different site in Bloomsbury had been identified and the building was designed for that site, but later it was changed to near St Pancras Station, hence redesigning (GLANCEY, 1994). This contributed to the waste of time and so delay of the project. The building’s architect was Collin St John Wilson and had to redesign parts of the building with changing requirements. In short words, the contractor was not responsible for the delays, but the changing government orders including budgeting affect the construction. Uncertainties regarding the design, splitting of the project arbitrarily, funding constraints, and prolonged debates on funding, were the major causes of the delay.

The major effects of the delay included time overrun and cost overrun. Concerning time overrun, the construction took twenty years to complete while it could have taken a shorter time if all things were run smoothly from the start. The construction ended utilising £445M, which was way beyond what was expected. The spending on the project was questionable as the public had started sensing foul play by the government due to the long-time taken to complete it. Another impact was the “frustration” of the architect and the contractor for changes in the design and budget. It is also noted that the public had started losing trust in the government for the delayed project and the huge amounts of money spent. This is an agreement with studies such as Aigbavboa et al (2014), who indicated that construction project delays can affect the reputation of the project owners.

It can be noted that the delay in the construction of the British Library was mainly excusable-compensable. This is because it is the owner (government) that contributed to the delay and not the contractor. Furthermore, it cannot be regarded as excusable-non-compensable because the factors that led to the delay were not beyond the government’s control; for example, lack of an effective overseeing committee in the initial phase of the project, changing orders of the design, and funding- all these could have been avoiding if there was a clear focused plan during the inception of the project. In addition, similar to the primary and secondary research findings funding-related factors were the main causes of the delay in the construction of the British Library since there was no clear budget while there was controlled funding due to public outcry. Planning-related factors came second as there frequent changes in plans including designing and changes in budgeting. The main contract-related factor was lack of clear project timeline. Besides, the owner being the government, there was a lot of politicking around the project which significantly contributed to the delay of the project.

5. Conclusion

The causes of construction project delay are different but the effects are similar. In the current study, the research focused on finance-related causes, planning-related causes, and contract-related causes. It has been revealed that the financial factors are the leading causes of construction project delays. Project planning was the overall second ranked cause of construction project delay. It implies that most individuals in the construction sector view improper planning as the second-most common contributor of construction projects’ delays after financial issues. Planning-related factors include changes in orders, redesigning, slow expropriation of land, and slow approval process. Lack of clear project timeline and lack of a defined project management team are other factors that contribute to construction project delays. In addition, as observed from the British Library project, political interference is also an important cause of construction project delays particularly for government projects. The delays lead to time overruns, cost overruns, tainted reputation and arbitrations. Moreover, it has been found out that causes of construction delays and their impact are similar in both developed and developing countries. Therefore, the causes of construction project delays should be addressed almost in similar way in both cases.

6. Recommendations

The recommendations are focused on how to avoid or minimise delays in future construction projects. The recommendations are based on the research findings and analysis of the British Library case study. Concerning financial factors, the project owner should ensure that the source of finance is adequate and available. Sufficient fund should be set aside at least for the initial phases of a project before launching the project. The project owners should pay the contractor in time so that the contractor can be able to finance the continuity of the project. Moreover, the payments should be done in line with the contract but in case there are changes in the contract along the way they should be addressed early enough before they significantly affect the project.

To minimise planning-related delays, there should be an accurate study on the project feasibility followed by an accurate design, which will not require a lot of adjustments afterwards. There should be timely handing over of the construction site to avoid delays. This can be achieved by having clear site procurement or acquisition procedures. In addition, the project owner and project contractors must have a clear timetable and scheduling which is crucial in making sure that the project adheres to realistic timescale.  There should be a well-defined project management team and an oversight committee for the purpose of implementation and monitoring the projects.

Concerning contract factor, it is recommended that coordination and constructive communication should be engaged between the main parties. There should be clear sharing of information and engaging each other whenever an issue is foreseen to prevent from slowing down the project.


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