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Considerate construction:
case studies of current practice

Considerate
construction

Jacqueline Glass and Mark Simmonds


Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University,
Loughborough, UK

131

Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to report on the extent to which major contractors are
delivering what can be termed considerate construction, using case studies of housing and education
projects in the UK, identify areas for improvement, particularly in the area of community engagement
practices used by contractors.
Design/methodology/approach A list of key themes relating to community engagement is
developed and used as a framework for case studies of projects being built by a major,
multi-disciplinary contractor that routinely registers projects with the Considerate Constructors
Scheme.
Findings This research found evidence of a range of effective practices, but there is still scope for
improvement. Seemingly better examples were found in projects in which the contractor took a
partnered approach with both client and community, retained community relation expertise on staff,
and took appropriate, timely action.
Research limitations/implications The case studies are based in the Southeast of England and
focus on housing and educational projects, so the lessons learned may not apply in all instances.
Practices may also vary from one contractor to another.
Practical implications The findings have implications for community engagement procedures
used in construction projects. There are specific recommendations relating to the professional training
of construction project managers, who need to be better equipped to deal with the local general public.
Originality/value The research complements the existing academic and industry literature on
considerate construction and makes both strategic and practical recommendations to enhance on-site
community engagement practices. Thus it is of interest to both researchers and practitioners.
Keywords Project management, Community relations, Corporate social responsibility, Business ethics,
Construction industry, United Kingdom
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
The UK construction industry, its supply chain and associated professional services
contribute 10 per cent of annual GDP through some 350,000 firms, employing nearly
three million people (Construction Industry Research and Information Association,
2002). Calvert (1995) observes that as well as providing employment, the industry also
extends and improves the fabric and facilities of society. However, in doing so it has an
impact on areas that surround its sites, which will affect a range of stakeholders in one
way or another, whether these are building users, members of the public or client
organisations. For example, ad hoc media evidence over past decades suggests that
contractors are perceived as uninvited and unwelcome neighbours in residential
communities. There is also evidence of a mismatch between the business goals of the
contracting organisation as a supplier of expertise in management, logistics, human
resources and financing (Chartered Institute of Building, 2000) and societys
perception of it as a social facilitator (Barthorpe, 1999). Therefore, the impact of

Engineering, Construction and


Architectural Management
Vol. 14 No. 2, 2007
pp. 131-149
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0969-9988
DOI 10.1108/09699980710731263

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building construction on its immediate neighbours is of high relevance to those


involved with construction management, both on and off site.
The construction industry has been accused of being insular (Lynn, 1996) and
uninterested in politically motivated changes (Ball, 1998). Furthermore, the inclusion
of corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles within reporting structures of larger
construction companies has fuelled the debate about contractors responsibilities and
ethics (Akhurst, 2003; Vee and Skitmore, 2003) and as a result, the investment
community (as well as other stakeholders such as construction clients and the public)
are scrutinising the activities and behaviours of construction organisations. Barthorpe
(2003) states that organisations which have a CSR commitment do not consider the
general publics interests as mutually exclusive or in competition with their corporate
goals, but Monoghan (2004) reports that the importance of having sound CSR policies
is still not fully understood.
As means of improving the sometimes difficult relationship between construction
and its stakeholders, practical guidance documents on community relations have
understandably attracted attention (e.g. Hadi et al., 2004) and initiatives such as the
Considerate Constructors Scheme, previously known as the Considerate Contractors
Scheme (CCS), have gained significant levels of participation (Considerate Constructors
Scheme, 1997), but there is a lack of research analysis of effective practices. Research
was therefore required to investigate the extent to which contractors were delivering
what can be termed considerate construction, as evidenced through the effectiveness
of their practices or strategies employed. This research aim was investigated through a
series of case studies undertaken on sites operated by one of the UKs top 25
multi-disciplinary contractors. The projects were all based in urban residential areas in
the Southeast of England. In terms of size, building types, design, budgets and urban
character, the four case studies represent a range of project sizes, types and settings
such that the conclusions arising from the work should be broad enough (i.e. at
conceptual level) to be applicable to a range of projects and contexts.. The structure for
the analysis was developed from literature on contractors activities causing impacts
(e.g. Barthorpe, 1999, 2003), strategies to deal with impacts (e.g. Moodley, 1999), and
research on public relations in construction (e.g. Preece and Moodley, 1996), a review of
which is presented below.
Contractors activities causing impacts to the community
Dubois and Gadde (2002) identify that construction activity is inherently site-based,
and as such is characterised by two main features:
(1) the focus on individual projects (i.e. decentralised decision-making and financial
control): and
(2) the need for local adjustment on site due to uncertainty factors such as the site
environment.
Indeed, all sites can present particular challenges, making the task of documenting
impact factors comprehensively somewhat difficult to achieve in practice. Much of the
literature on the impact of construction therefore acknowledges these characteristics
and examines principally the physical impacts arising from construction (e.g. dust,
vibration, noise). A broader definition of an impact (Raynsford, 1991) is:

. . . anything which interrupts the normal flow of daily life, or unsettles our expectations
about the course of future events, or threatens to frustrate plans we may have made, as likely
to cause uncertainty, anxiety or financial loss.

Construction sites can be a major source of pollution and have an adverse impact on
health, quality of life and the environment; for example, case study research of five
different types of new build designs identified a number of general negative impacts
experienced by the local community (Hadi, 2001). Table I summarises the major
impacts and provides key references.
To establish a good relationship with the community, the impacts arising from
construction must be considered (Considerate Constructors Scheme, 1997; Barthorpe,
1999; Herridge, 2003; Kukadia et al., 2003). Indeed, the essence of the Residents Charter
(Barthorpe, 2003) is a recognition of the effects of construction on:
.
site traffic on local roads;
.
dust on local residents property;
.
tracking of dirt from site onto local roads;
.
air quality; and
.
general disruption to local residents daily life.
Impact

Description and sources

Noise

Arising from trucks, reversing vehicle alarms, road sweepers, impact devices,
drilling, saws, cranes, shouting and demolition activities (Construction Industry
Research and Information Association, 1996, 2002; Ferguson, 1995; Kukadia
et al., 2003; Schexnayder, 1999a, b; Stubbs, 1998)
Arising from laying temporary roads and haulage routes, vehicle and plant
usage, handling of materials, storage and stockpiling, fabrication processes and
site restoration processes (Construction Industry Research and Information
Association, 2004; Ferguson, 1995; Hadi, 2001; Kukadia et al., 2003)
Arising from employees vehicles, visitors cars and deliveries to site; results in
hold-ups on local roads and restricted access for emergency services (Building
Research Establishment, 2003; Hadi, 2001)
Inconsiderate parking causes blocked access to homes, shops and bus stops,
reduced visibility, reduced passing trade for shops, reduced delivery access,
blocked disabled access and restricted access for emergency services (Building
Research Establishment, 2003; Hadi, 2001)
Discharge from machinery, rainwater run-off and drainage from sites into
groundwater (Construction Industry Research and Information Association,
2002, 2004)
Accidents occurring outside the site boundary caused by falling materials,
broken pavements, damaged footpaths, dark temporary access ramps. Noise and
disruption causing stress (Hadi, 2001)
Pavements consistently made dirty with mud and sand, subsequently walked
into houses or other properties/shops, damaging flooring and requiring regular
cleaning (Hadi, 2001)
Vandalism, thefts and people, particularly children, getting on to site through
insecure fencing and driving machinery at night with obvious risks to
themselves and others (Building Research Establishment, 2003; Crime
Reduction, 2004; Leftly, 2005; Hadi, 2001)

Dust

Traffic congestion
Parking

Water pollution
Health and safety
Dirt
Security

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construction

133

Table I.
Major impacts caused by
contractors activities
on site

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Once work starts on site, Stubbs (1998) believes there to be considerable scope for
environmental liabilities to attach to contractors, whether as a result of existing
problems on site, or of new problems created. Uff (2002) discusses both the implications
of the contents of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Noise and Statutory
Nuisance Act 1993, and the powers held by Local Authorities for enforcement.
Barthorpe (1999) suggests that although nationwide legislation is in place, it is the
construction industrys erratic compliance and the relatively weak and inconsistent
monitoring that causes most concern to the public. There is a wide range of physical
measures that a contractor can use to mitigate physical impacts from construction
activities, which Barthorpe (2003) considers should be organised at the
pre-construction stage. A detailed discussion of all the main measures is outside the
scope of this research, but a number of authors (Towers, 2001; Kukadia et al., 2003;
Hadi et al., 2004) provide coverage of physical abatement solutions.
Strategies for dealing with impacts to the community
Moodley (1999) suggests that increasing concern about the impact of new development
means society is taking a greater interest in its stake the definition of a stakeholder
(Barthorpe, 2003; Moodley, 1999), is any group or individual who can affect or is
affected by achievement of the organisations objectives (Freeman, 1984). There has
been the realisation that power can be derived from groupings of people acting
together in a cohesive manner and power is the mechanism through which
stakeholders influence projects (Newcombe, 2003). The number of indirect or external
stakeholders is vast and there is a danger that contractors believe their main client
represents all such people (Winch, 2002). George et al. (2000) find that these
stakeholders are dealt with only on a reactive basis when successful completion of a
project is under threat. Barthorpe (2003) observes that organisations have had to accept
the general public amongst their stakeholders, in some cases rather reluctantly.
A number of strategic approaches are described in the literature: Moodley (1999)
identifies a customer service/community service orientation, Fill (1999) proposes that
stakeholder analysis is used to devise an operational strategy (Preece et al., 1998),
George et al. (2000) consider it fundamental to obtain stakeholder buy-in and support,
detailing a disciplined approach to achieving this, and Newcombe (2003) proposes a
useful concept of project stakeholders as multiple clients for construction projects.
Frederick et al. (1992) state that an effective corporate policy has to be implemented in
different local situations, and hence it is desirable for branch (site) managers to have
some leeway. Moodley (1999) proposes a two-level strategy for community interaction:
(1) an industry-level strategy to deal with issues that influence the firm irrespective
of project or location (with sufficient flexibility to allow implementation at
project level); and
(2) a project-level strategy to deal with local and project concerns.
Commitment of resources and the availability of personnel with appropriate skills is a
recurrent theme (e.g. Preece et al., 1998; Yu and Lo, 2005). Barthorpe (2003) notes that in
particularly sensitive neighbourhoods, a project-dedicated community liaison person
should be appointed, but this skill may be lacking within the construction management
profession (Newcombe, 2003). Hadi (2001) found good practice, but little monitoring or
feedback undertaken, although a method of measuring project participant satisfaction

has been proposed by Leung et al. (2003). Stockdale (2003) reports that since 1991,
regeneration strategies have brought together capital investment with social and
economic development, and confirms the importance of working with local residents.
The most widely used and prominent of industry schemes in the UK is the Considerate
Constructors Scheme (CCS) by August 2004, almost 10,000 sites had been registered
under the scheme, representing a range of building types, contractors and locations
(Considerate Constructors Scheme, 1997). Smit (1996) observes that although such
schemes are voluntary, contractors are made accountable for their actions and
transgressions and can consequently suffer the embarrassment of being suspended
from the scheme, and therefore labelled as inconsiderate. Barthorpe (1999) concludes
that it is this fear that spurs contractors into action, with compliance based on it being
good business sense. The same author has suggested that the CCS is an ideal
framework for the construction industry to implement what he described as a societal
stakeholder approach (Barthorpe, 2003).
Moodley (1999) considers communication and the provision of relevant information
as key to successful community engagement he proposes a concept of customer
service orientation. Barthorpe (1999) also identifies effective communication as
essential to successful public relations and recommends a communications audit as a
useful tool. One of Walkers (2000) key findings was that communication, with all
stakeholders, needed to be planned for and/or needed to occur more often. Hadi (2001)
found that communication and consultation were key to reducing the scale of concerns
from local people, but the degree of consultation that did take place was inadequate.
Preece and Moodley (1996) suggest that there is a movement among larger contractors
to develop public relations in an attempt to improve relationships with local
communities. However both they and Barthorpe (1999) suggest that the term public
relations is more commonly understood to refer to relations with the media, project
teams or company-level mechanisms (e.g. Emmitt and Gorse, 2003).
So, despite the presence of national legislation and compliance schemes, the
performance of the construction industry in minimising the impact of its activities
continues to be called into question. For example, Barthorpe (1999) suggests that weak
and inconsistent monitoring causes most concern to the public and Hadi (2001) exposes
concerns about inadequate communication. The rise of corporate social responsibility
is encouraging contractors to improve their ethical standing by better responding to
stakeholder expectations. Although larger, regeneration projects tend to have well
developed community teams (Stockdale, 2003), many construction project managers
lack the resources, time or skills to cope (Newcombe, 2003). Dedicated resources, a
nominated person, a structured approach to complaints and feedback, and perhaps
most importantly, communication with the community are among the key components
in effective community engagement. It is reasonable therefore to examine the extent to
which such characteristics feature in construction projects, with the aim of helping
contractors develop and improve community engagement strategies at both corporate
and project levels. In response to the aim of the research, the literature reveals some
key issues:
.
a broad range of impacts arises from construction activities;
.
public relations is commonly cited as the prime communication medium;

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the body of knowledge and theory on company policies relating to CSR and
community engagement is increasing; and
interaction with the community is often simply via complaints.

These four issues were taken into account when developing the framework for the
primary research, which is described below.
Methodology and data collection
The research aim was to investigate the extent to which contractors were delivering
what can be termed considerate construction, as evidenced through the effectiveness
of their practices or strategies employed. An extensive literature review formed the
early stages of the research, in which academic papers, legislation, industry guidance
and company-based information sources were critically reviewed to identify major
themes relating to the three research objectives, which were:
(1) to identify impacts caused by construction activities;
(2) to examine strategies employed to deal with impacts; and
(3) to assess the effectiveness of these strategies.
It was clear that much of the literature focussed on managing particular impacts,
communication and PR practices, or the ethical position of construction (e.g. CSR).
Apart from Hadi (2001), and latterly Hadi et al. (2004), there appeared to be a lack of
case-based, experiential evidence to draw upon. As a result and to fulfil the research
objectives, there was a need for detailed data on impacts, strategies and their
effectiveness. This demanded a qualitative approach for the primary research and so a
case study methodology provided breadth of content, depth of detail, practicality of
application and maintained complexity, thereby representing real-life interaction
between contractors and the public (Yin, 2003; Ho et al., 2004). Using the findings from
the literature review, a table was compiled to act as a framework for the data collection.
The framework sought to identify which impacts had been experienced, the nature of
strategies and community liaison practices implemented (including whether or not a
public relations style approach was considered useful and the way in which complaints
were handled). Finally, to ascertain the effectiveness of the contractors actions towards
all of the above, all participants were asked about any measures of effectiveness used
and invited to give their own personal views on levels of success for each category. For
each case study, the headings in Table II were used as the framework for
semi-structured interviews, but responses were not restricted to those issues alone.
The interviewees were chosen on advice from project representatives, with the aim
to gain qualitative feedback on the effectiveness of the contractors community
engagement efforts. The proximity of sites to neighbouring residents, use of peoples
names and details on documents and recollections of personal experiences meant that
sensitivity to the needs of the interviewees was paramount. Bryman (2001) and others
explore a number of ethical issues in relation to social research, but in this instance
privacy was the most salient concern. One-to-one, private meetings with the researcher
were deemed to be the most appropriate method to ensure confidentiality, encourage
responses and create a comfortable atmosphere. The combination of at least two
interviews and secondary data collection of complaint records and project documents

Issue

Description and sources

Main impacts arising Broad and variable range of impacts,


from construction
emphasis on abatement of the physical
activities
impacts (e.g. dirt, dust and noise) with a
growing body of literature on social effects
Typical impacts from construction (Hadi,
2001; Kukadia et al., 2003)
Relevant legislation (Stubbs, 1998; Uff,
2002)
Social costs (Construction Industry
Research and Information Association,
2001; Hunt, 2004)
Other guidance (Barthorpe, 1999, 2003;
Herridge, 2003)
Communication and Traditional focus on
public engagement
publicity/dissemination rather than
involvement, but growing awareness of
importance of two-way communication
State of the art review papers (Hadi, 2001;
Walker, 2000)
Code of Practice (Department of
Environment, Transport and the Regions,
1999)
Communications strategies (Moodley,
1999)
Public relations issues (Barthorpe, 1999;
Preece and Moodley, 1996; Preece et al.,
1996, 1997, 1998)
Policies, strategies
Integration of top-down (corporate) and
and their
bottom-up (community) led initiatives are
implementation
creating a wealth of both theoretical
literature, compliance schemes and
practical guidance in this area
Improving industry ethics (Akhurst, 2003;
Barthorpe, 1999)
Societal stakeholder approach (Barthorpe,
2003; George et al., 2000; Moodley, 1999;
Newcombe, 2003)
Community strategies (Frederick et al.,
1992; Moodley, 1999; Preece et al., 1998)
Corporate social responsibility issues
(Constructing Excellence, 2004; Herridge,
2003; Monoghan, 2004)
Considerate Constructors Scheme
(Barthorpe, 1999; Smit, 1999)
Use of a Residents Charter (Barthorpe,
1999)
Legislative compliance (Stubbs, 1998; Uff,
2002)
Physical abatement measures (Hadi et al.,
2004; Kukadia et al., 2003)
Complaints and
Often the only data kept on record, but
feedback
under-used. Coverage of measurement
techniques to test the effectiveness of
strategies is generally lacking
State of the art review papers (Hadi, 2001;
Moodley, 1999)
Using ISO quality standards (Walker,
2000)
Measuring the success of strategies (Leung
et al., 2003)

Example case study question(s)


What impact/s was/were experienced?
How did this manifest itself?
Who identified it?
What if any guidance was consulted?
Was any feedback received on
effectiveness?
(Can any other impacts be visibly
identified by the researcher?)

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137

Was a public relations officer used?


When and how?
What forms of communication were used?
Were lessons learned here based on
practice elsewhere?
Were they later communicated to others in
the organisation?
Was any feedback received on
effectiveness?

How was the community involved?


Who organised this?
Who acted as a contact?
Was any feedback received on
effectiveness?

Was a company/standard approach used?


Were any complaints received?
Generally, who complained and about
what?
Who received complaints and how were
they documented?
Who actually dealt with the complaints, i.e.
acted and then responded to the
complainant?
Was any feedback received on
effectiveness?

Table II.
Summary of issues from
the literature: case study
analysis framework

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(e.g. photographic evidence) provided the necessary triangulation (Fellows and Liu,
2003). Interviewees responses were incrementally compared and progressively
interrogated against the main themes, then individual case studies were compared to
one another, in an example of the research funnel presented by Holt (1997).
Building on the results from Hadis (2001) research, a similar approach was adopted
for the four case studies, all based in urban residential areas in the Southeast of
England on sites operated by one of the UKs top 25 multi-disciplinary contractors,
with an annual turnover in excess of 300m (2003 figures). The contractor
sub-contracts all work on site, and thus its staff take on a purely management role; it is
a keen advocate of partnering and has numerous framework agreements with public
and private clients. In terms of size, building types, design, budgets and urban
character, the four case studies are eminently comparable to many UK towns and
cities, and so present a vignette of current practices, albeit from within a single
company. The cases were chosen as representative of medium-budget,
medium-complexity buildings in existing urban residential areas (and because the
company routinely registered its activities with the CCS). Two educational buildings
and two large housing regeneration projects were investigated, with a total of 13
interviews undertaken, as detailed in Table III.
The case study method provided opportunities to test ideas and ask structured and
unstructured questions, as well as to gather documentary evidence (Yin, 2003). Hence,
a significant breadth and depth of information was required in the research and, as Yin
(2003) notes, a case study method is particularly useful when there is a complex
interaction between the phenomenon and its context, which is certainly the case for
construction and community relations. Selection of cases may be based on the principle
that replication confirms the robustness of the theory developed, but Eisenhardt (1989)
notes that it is common practice to balance the desire for theoretical saturation (where
any new case adds no significant new findings) with more pragmatic considerations,
such as time and resource constraints. Studying a single organisation within one
region of operation may appear to be limiting, but can give an in-depth opportunity to
study the ways in which better management can contribute to making construction
activities more acceptable to the local general public and analyse these in a more
controlled way through four cases (i.e. achieving theoretical replication). Indeed,
statistical sampling would not have explored fully what the organisation was doing, so
a single organisation case study altogether better fitted the specific situation being
studied (Berg, 2001). The choice of locations and projects was not based on perceived or
actual levels of success, rather to be representative of a range of project sizes, types and
settings such that the conclusions arising from the work should be broad enough (i.e. at
conceptual level) to be applicable to a range of projects and contexts. As with most case
studies, the main limitation is that results are not statistically generalisable to a
population. However, it was not the aim of the research to create such a dataset and the
literature already contained research on physical impacts. Here, the four case studies
presented an opportunity for exploratory cross-comparison and were analysed using
matrices to develop conclusions and thus make theoretical propositions based on
analytic generalisation (Yin, 2003). The results of this work enhance understanding,
represent a contribution to the literature and provide robust findings on which further
research, such as a broader quantitative study, could be based.

Project Manager
Responsible for representing
communities concerns

Site Manager (7 years


experience)
Responsible for taking
remedial actions on site to
reduce impacts

Site Manager (30 years


experience)
Responsible for taking
remedial actions on site to
reduce impacts

1. Housing Services Manager


2. Regeneration Officer
Jointly responsible for
representing communities
concerns and go-between or
community and contractor

Project Manager (30 years


experience)
Responsible for all project
community issues

Project Manager (21 years


experience)
Responsible for all project
community issues

Operations Manager (15 years


experience)
Particularly responsible for
managing out impacts
pre-construction
Senior Building Manager (17
years experience)
Responsible for all project
community issues

Case study 4

Case study 3

Case study 2

Note: aFor case study 2, both representatives from the contractor identified the clients representative as the person most informed about community
issues. On contacting this person however, the researcher was referred to the estates manager, who was thought better qualified to answer questions. This
person also felt unable to answer the questions and consequently no individual was interviewed. This highlights just one of the problem areas for
communication between contractors and community representatives, identified throughout the literature

Building Manager (20 years


experience)
Responsible for taking
remedial actions on site to
reduce impacts
Director
Operations Director (30 years
experience)
Responsible for representing
company community
issues/initiatives
Local
Professional & Technical
authority/community Advisor
Responsible for representing
communities concerns

Construction Manager (25


years experience)
Responsible for all project
community issues

Project management

Site management

Case study 1

Role

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Table III.
Case study interviews
professions, roles and
responsibilities

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Case studies: description and analysis


Sixth form academy (7.5 million, 44 week duration)
This was a specialist sixth form academy in the Southeast of London. The project
duration was 44 weeks and it was visited shortly after completion. The site is
closely overlooked on all sides by Victorian terraced housing, typical of many UK
towns and cities. Like many construction sites, dirt, dust, noise and traffic
movements were considered to be the most significant problems, aligning with the
findings of Hadi (2001). Comments recorded in relation to noise were also notable
and reflected observations made by Schexnayder (1999a, b). Similarly on dirt and
dust, parallels can be drawn with Kukadia et al. (2003). However the
complaints/comments register suggested that local residents primary concerns
were the potential for ground movement and vibration, together with any
subsequent effect on their properties.
The application of a societal stakeholder approach (Preece et al., 1998; Moodley,
1999; Barthorpe, 2003) appeared incomplete with little interest shown in the project
by local residents. Stakeholder buy-in appeared to be weak with the end user
considered as the principal stakeholder in the community (Preece et al., 1998).
Pre-construction consultations were the starting point for a form of stakeholder
analysis (Fill, 1999); however, attendance was poor. Despite proactive
communication with 350 local residents in the early stages, the circulation of
newsletters dwindled over time and thus failed to address shortcomings uncovered
by Walker (2000) and Hadi (2001). A standard procedure for logging and
investigating complaints was implemented, although the lack of a single point of
contact and site managers not having appropriate expertise were both significant
issues, in common with Hadi (2001).
Impact minimisation was considered by the contractor during the design
development, such as the use of a precast concrete frame to reduce site works and
traffic movements. The contractors corporate environmental policy was considered to
cover community issues; however it was not evident that this, as well as a site-specific
strategy, was operating effectively (Moodley, 1999). The role of the project manager
was considered to encompass community engagement although at times the capacity
to address concerns was compromised by workload. The CCS was valued as both a
useful checklist and a minimum standard in line with Barthorpes (2003) view that it is
an ideal framework.
Student accommodation (5.7 million, 46 week duration)
This study consisted of new student accommodation on a Southwest London college
campus comprising two new, four-storey residential blocks. The site was very
congested, adjacent to existing accommodation blocks and overlooked by private
detached housing, screened only by a few mature trees. The general disorder of the site
and surrounding area was considered a problem, which aligns with Hadis (2001)
finding that where residents overlook a site, the general consensus was that it was
unsightly and messy. The congested nature of the site and surroundings caused
disruption of pedestrian routes, congruent with the work of Hadi (2001), despite
interviewees and the CCS auditor drawing attention to the impact of site traffic
movements on pedestrian safety. Noise was considered a problem by the operations

manager and CCS auditor. Harassment of passers-by from site workers (Hadi, 2001)
was also a consideration, although there are few practical solutions in the literature.
A failure to include more than just the student community among the community
stakeholder group conflicted with recommendations from several authors (Barthorpe,
1999; Herridge, 2003; Newcombe, 2003). When the local community had been engaged
it had been within the political arena (Newcombe, 2003) with groups acting
cohesively in conflict with the project. Hadis (2001) finding that peoples perceptions
are often affected negatively by their experiences in the early stages of a project was
reflected in the number of complaints received here. A letter to residents notifying them
of the projects commencement, detailed site boards and a formal follow-up of all
complaints went some way to implementing the contents of Moodleys (1999) customer
service orientation. However, no system was in place to inform the local residents of
what was happening (a common shortfall identified by Hadi, 2001), and no means of
gaining feedback was in place. There was no evidence of any formal impact
minimisation strategy (Barthorpe, 2003) or a site-specific approach (Moodley, 1999).
There was recognition that community issues fell within the project managers remit
(Moodley, 1999; Newcombe, 2003); however, scope for more training was identified.
Despite being the point of contact for local residents, the senior building manager had
not received any formal community relations training (Hadi, 2001). The interviewees
failed to identify any benefits of a community policy other than those for the contractor
(Akhurst, 2003; Vee and Skitmore, 2003). Finally, the Considerate Constructors Scheme
(CCS) was recognised as a source of feedback and guide for good practice.
Social housing (800 units, three-year phased redevelopment)
This was a multi-phase housing regeneration in a deprived West London borough
being built over a three-year period; it will eventually consist of 800 new units, nearly
all of which will replace existing housing stock. Dust was considered a major issue in
the vicinity of the site: Hadi (2001) and the Construction Industry Research and
Information Association (2004) make specific reference to the problems dust can cause
for local residents. Parking of workers vehicles during the day disrupted residents
activities, which supports previous research findings that around 70 per cent of
construction operatives drive to site and there are around 875 traffic movements per
100k of project value (Building Research Establishment, 2003). Further to this, the
condition of hoarding deteriorated as it was being moved constantly. Hadi (2001)
highlights the safety hazards associated with hoarding in a poor condition and failure
to retain noise and dust.
Full stakeholder buy-in, as proposed by George et al. (2000), was achieved at the
earliest stage with effective engagement of local residents, which is considered crucial
by Stockdale (2003). The residents associations representation on the clients board is
congruent with Moodleys (1999) customer/community service orientation and
Newcombes (2003) multiple client approach; pre-construction consultation meetings
could be viewed as a first step towards stakeholder mapping and analysis (Barthorpe,
2003; Newcombe, 2003) and a societal stakeholder approach (Moodley, 1999).
Integration of the contractors newsletter into the residents newsletter addresses
Hadis (2001) observations that dissemination of information needs to occur often and
to a wide audience. A clear communications route for complaints was in place: the

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point of contact for residents was the housing associations regeneration officer; the
contractor also maintained contact with local schools.
The site team were responsive in foreseeing potential for local residents to have
grievances. Despite recognising the value the Community Team had brought to the
process, all interviewees were aware of the need for the project manager to be involved
(Barthorpe, 2003; Newcombe, 2003). However, the project manager echoed Hadis
(2001) statement that site managers do not have the appropriate training for dealing
with community issues. All interviewees identified a lack of community relations
industry guidance, which aligns with Hadi (2001), and Preece et al. (1996), who
emphasised the role for public relations in educating, informing and improving the
publics perception. The site manager notes that operatives were unaware of the effect
of their actions on the public. Reflecting on the CCS, the contractors staff viewed it as
no more than a rudimentary guide, in line with Barthorpes (2003) views; it was the
only form of feedback for site and head office management.
Social housing (94 units, 52-week duration)
This was a housing regeneration scheme in a large town in the Home Counties
consisting of 94 social housing units plus communal areas. The project was the
contractors first Accelerated Programme Initiative (API), project duration was 52
weeks and the site was visited shortly after completion. Dirt and dust were considered
to have the greatest impact on the local residents. However the local authority project
managers view that no particular impact was greater than any other reinforced the
contractors statement that all potential impacts were given due and equal
consideration. Planning for potentially adverse effects, evidenced here in detailed
site traffic management, planning with the Highways Agency and Police Authority,
suggests a form of impact minimisation strategy (Barthorpe, 2003). The appointment
of a Community Team is in accordance with Barthorpes (2003) view that such
sensitive neighbourhoods require this provision.
The contractors ability to win the contract in the first instance reflected Stockdales
(2003) observation of pre-qualification bid contents; in this example, the contractor
committed to use local labour. The project manager made reference to a Clients
Charter, which encompassed some of the content of Barthorpes (1999) Residents
Charter. A rigid, formal complaints procedure was considered by the local authority to
be very effective, but in fact was championed and managed by the site management
team, which contradicts Hadis (2001) suggestion that site management do not possess
such skills. Relationship building at project level took place at schools and community
centres, via open days, community consultations and sod-turning ceremonies, which
echo options for stakeholder engagement in Preece et al. (1998) and George et al. (2000).
A dedicated newsletter coupled with local press releases and information boards
generated a high level of interest in the project, as predicted by Leung et al. (2003).
Stockdale (2003) suggests these types of activity create a credible community presence.
The CCS was perceived to be of value, particularly in assisting future strategic
planning or as a useful checklist. Interviewees were clear that the strategy adopted was
dynamic and in partnership with the community and can therefore be viewed as an
interactive strategy, i.e. aligning with the simultaneous contractor and community
model proposed by Frederick et al. (1992). The contractor did not seek any specific
feedback over and above the CCS audit, but the site manager suggested that any

feedback (e.g. as part of ISO 9000 or ISO 14000) must take cognisance of the
performance of the supply chain in its interaction with the community.

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Discussion of findings
The research methodology was designed to provide evidence of current practices in
community engagement and considerate construction and the case studies selected
were typical of many housing regeneration and education projects being undertaken
throughout the UK in urban residential areas. Having established a number of key
themes apparent in the literature, responses to the research objectives will now be
discussed in turn.

143

Impacts caused by construction activities


Responses to this issue from residents and community representatives, and recorded
complaints at the various case study locations, included access issues, dirt and dust,
noise, parking problems and risk of ground movement. The fact that dirt and dust
emerged as a problem on all case study sites was consistent with Kukadia et al. (2003).
The complaints were, however, more concerned with the general annoyance caused
(Hadi, 2001; Construction Industry Research and Information Association, 2004), such
as dirt on washing or dust on parked cars, rather than any adverse health effects
(Ferguson, 1995; Kukadia et al., 2003). Noise from construction activities (machinery,
vehicles and workers) was noted as consistently problematic; Schexnayder (1999a, b)
suggests that tonal characteristics of machinery noise can be particularly irritating.
Parking problems were commonplace (Building Research Establishment, 2003), with
traffic congestion, blocked access ways and difficulty finding spaces. Local residents
identified a number of other impacts, all of which are consistent with the 20 major
impacts in Hadi (2001). Staff from local authorities or client organisations tended to cite
other issues as being of greater significance, such as low use of local labour.
Strategies employed by the contractor
All case studies were registered under the Considerate Constructors Scheme;
interviewees regarded it as a framework, a useful checklist, or being of value in
strategic planning. In addition, a number of planning, management and physical
measures were used on the case study projects, all which could be considered to be part
of Barthorpes (2003) impact minimisation strategy. For example, designing out
problems by changing the construction method or materials used and managing the
problems through considerate design of the site layout. The contractor had in place a
group environmental policy (answering Moodleys (1999) call for the industry level
strategy of a two-level approach), but none of the case study projects operated a
project-specific policy to satisfy the recommendation in Preece et al. (1998).
Community-related activities had been budgeted for on the housing project case
studies only and it may be no coincidence that these projects were closer to adopting
societal stakeholder approaches. Pre-construction engagement was more commonplace
on housing case studies, derived from the contents of the pre-qualification bid. This
involvement was either client-led, or a joint venture based on targets set in the
pre-qualification (Stockdale, 2003). A pre-construction forum was undertaken on all but
one project, although it was universally considered necessary in retrospect. Circulation
of project information varied, but occurred more regularly on housing projects; the

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distribution of a start-up letter was considered normal practice. The project and/or
site management team in each case study adopted its own complaints procedure,
although these were in fact very similar, which implies that a company-level approach
might be easily developed and implemented.
Peoples perceptions of the effectiveness of strategies
It was not the aim of the research to carry out doorstep research, rather to gain
community feedback from representatives. This resulted in a useful overview of issues
at each case study site, but perhaps lacked the longitudinal depth that surveys or
ethnographic investigations might offer. Complaint records offered a useful way of
triangulating interviewees reactions, but data gathering was hindered by the
contractors lack of information on record. At no location did the contractor seek any
direct feedback from local residents to gauge the success or otherwise of strategies
being deployed, which is congruent with Hadi (2001). The CCS audit was relied upon to
provide feedback to site management and head office, despite comments from some
interviewees that it did not reflect the changing site environment and that it was too
easy to achieve the minimum standard.
Tolerance levels to site activities improved in direct relation to the site teams visible
actions to respond to residents concerns. Interviewees from all case studies noted that
earlier involvement with the community could have mitigated many problems, thus
avoiding the token gesture syndrome (Stockdale, 2003). The higher level of empathy
displayed on housing projects resulted in greater buy-in from local residents. However,
it is interesting that the other case studies had not been adversely affected by not
achieving this level of buy-in, despite George et al. (2000) forecasting quite the opposite.
Although there were indications of a problem with communication, on the basis of
these case studies it was not possible to either uphold or dismiss Hadis (2001)
suggestion that site managers do not have the expertise to manage community issues.
For instance, there was no clear link between length of service/experience within the
construction industry and a site managers ability to act appropriately (when
anticipating problems or in response to complaints), but those who had worked on
housing/regeneration projects tended to be more aware of the issues. This may indicate
the need for a more extensive investigation to establish a clearer understanding of the
nature and extent of relevant experience within the profession. In all instances the
benefit of a community team was recognised as was the presence of the project
manager it was thought that he/she should always be part of a community
engagement strategy.
Conclusions
This paper has explored the issues relating to construction activities and the impacts
that these have on their immediate neighbours in the context of growing concerns
about the social and ethical performance of construction companies. A literature review
in the area of community engagement revealed that the main impacts caused by
contractors activities on site were on noise, dust, traffic congestion, parking, water
pollution, health and safety, dirt and security. While many such impacts were well
known and understood, it was evident that they had not been considered in an integral
way until relatively recently (Hadi, 2001; Hadi et al., 2004). The advent of the
Considerate Contractors Scheme (CCS) highlighted the need for contractors to adopt a

more structured approach, not only to the way they managed their impacts on site, but
also their relationship with the local general public in the areas surrounding operating
sites. However, there is a lack of literature on the extent to which contractors have
mastered the art of managing community relations.
A single company case study was undertaken to investigate the extent to which
contractors were delivering what can be termed considerate construction, as
evidenced through the effectiveness of their practices or strategies employed. This
company routinely registered its projects with the Considerate Constructors Scheme
and four of its projects were selected as cases so that the following research objectives
could be fulfilled:
.
identify impacts caused by construction activities;
.
examine strategies employed to deal with impacts; and
.
assess effectiveness of these strategies.
Following a review of the literature in the area of community engagement, a list of five
key themes and an interview schedule were developed. These were used as the
framework for four case studies of education and housing projects in the Southeast of
England being built by the major, multi-disciplinary contractor. Qualitative data
regarding impacts, strategies and their effectiveness were gathered using
semi-structured interviews with relevant individuals from the contractor, client and
community or local authority groups. Collection of secondary information was from
project documents and complaints records. The main conclusions from the research are
presented below.
First, this research has revealed that a number of adverse impacts arise as a result
of construction activities, broadly confirming previous research (e.g. Kukadia et al.,
2003), and that projects experience different challenges (for example due to differences
in site, locality, parties involved and tolerance levels). This variety continues to prove
difficult to predict and address with the case studies supporting notions of a possible
lack of appropriate skills, resources and commitment amongst construction managers
to deal with community issues. Dirt and dust were particularly problematic at all the
case study locations, with recorded complaints being based on annoyance or irritation,
rather than actual damage to persons or property.
Second, in respect of strategies employed by the contractor, the CCS functions as a
framework for management and reporting; but the levels set in CCS audits were
described by interviewees as setting the bar too low and failing to encourage
continuous improvement. It appears that this contractor is starting to develop
integrated community strategies that are site-specific: considerate site layout, regular
communication and prompt actions on complaints were amongst the more successful
actions cited. To be successful, responsibility must be devolved to site teams who
understand how to enact good practice in community relations. In the case of this
company, there is evidence that this contractor is moving away from an approach
whereby its commercial interests and operational practices appear mutually exclusive,
but there is still a knowledge/skills gap to be tackled on site.
Third, in relation to peoples perceptions of the effectiveness of strategies, there was
a lack of structured feedback from the community in particular. However, seemingly
better examples were to be found in projects in which the contractor took a partnered
approach with the client and the community, akin to the societal stakeholder approach

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(Preece et al., 1998; Moodley, 1999; Barthorpe, 2003). In some cases, interviewees
reported that tolerance to impacts increased markedly when the contractor was seen to
be taking prompt and appropriate action. On the face of it, the housing sector appeared
much more pro-active, with early and continuing engagement with the community
being a key to success. However, at present more tangible rewards are to be gained
from community involvement for those operating in the social housing sector;
accordingly, only the social housing case studies had preliminaries allocated for
community initiatives.
This study has found evidence of a range of effective practices operating within a
small number of CCS-registered projects, but there is much scope for improvements in
community relations. Further research is needed to investigate appropriate levels of
financial and human resources assigned by contractors to community relations,
identify key skills that could enhance the site management teams ability to deal with
the public, and explore the psychological relationship between actions taken and
residents level of acceptance or tolerance of construction site related impacts. Future
studies could broaden the sphere of respondents by including local members of the
general public, building users or senior representatives from client organisations. It
may also be valuable to assess the mechanisms through which contractors implement
community liaison strategies in concert with quality or environmental management
systems, such as ISO 14001, or with corporate-level policies.

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Jacqueline Glass can be contacted at: j.glass@lboro.ac.uk

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