Differing perspectives on
collaboration in construction
Deborah Hughes, Trefor Williams and Zhaomin Ren
Faculty of Advanced Technology,
University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this research is to identify the key aspects present in collaborative projects
with the objective of producing a clear deﬁnition for collaboration within the UK construction
industry. Firstly, the research provided a summary of the different forms of “working together” that
have become more prevalent since Latham’s and Egan’s work. Partnering was seen as the ultimate
form of collaboration, but due to the recent economic crisis, it has enjoyed diminishing support.
Collaboration was perceived as the new way forward. However, the literature on the subject often used
the term “collaboration” interchangeably with partnering, alliances, joint ventures, and networks.
Therefore, the aim of this research is to identify what the meaning of collaboration is currently.
Design/methodology/approach – Primary research was carried out in order to provide a clearer
picture of what collaboration is. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected through a
triangulation of questionnaires and interviews. Selective samples of personnel were approached to take
part in interviews to identify aspects of collaboration which were subsequently used to produce a
questionnaire. A larger selected sample of personnel was then approached to complete the
questionnaires. All personnel in the sample were selected as they had been involved in collaborative
construction projects. Semi structured interviews were used to provide a list of aspects to collaboration.
The aspects were then ranked in importance based on the analysis of results from an online
questionnaire. The aspects were then grouped into those that were considered essential; for those that
were considered desirable and those that merely added an extra dimension to collaborative working.
Findings – The interviews produced a list of 48 aspects which the participants considered were
relevant to collaboration. Through the use of online questionnaires, the 48 aspects were rank ordered
and the essential aspects to collaboration identiﬁed. The rank ordered list of aspects was then used to
inform the deﬁnitions of collaboration.
Originality/value – The ﬁndings of this research indicated that there are a large number of aspects
that are associated with collaborative working. However, the results provide an indication of which of
the many aspects identiﬁed are essential if a collaborative environment is to be established.
Keywords Construction, Collaboration, Deﬁnition, Partnering, United Kingdom, Construction industry,
Paper type Research paper
Since Latham (1994) ﬁrst looked at “performance, efﬁciency, fairness, and team work”,
terms such as partnering, alliancing and joint ventures have become common. The
literature provides many deﬁnitions for the terms of partnering, alliancing and joint
ventures. However, collaboration was often used in the literature as an umbrella term for
alliancing, joint ventures, networking, and partnering. The literature did not contain any
comprehensive lists of aspects involved in collaboration. There were several sources
that made reference to aspects but no research was found that established the relative
importance of the aspects to each other. The use of the word collaboration seems to have
changed in the construction industry over time and so the research started by reading
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Vol. 12 No. 3, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited