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Constructing Futures: Industry leaders and futures thinking in construction

Constructing Futures: Industry leaders and futures thinking in construction

Paul Chan, Rachel Cooper

ISBN: 978-1-444-32783-0

Apr 2011, Wiley-Blackwell

240 pages


There is growing interest in future scenario planning of the construction industry but a disconnect between thinking about the future at the policy-making level and implementing real change.

Constructing Futures: industry leaders and futures thinking in construction takes a thematic approach to the future of the UK construction industry by presenting the results of a series of in-depth interviews conducted with leading construction figures and structuring this material into chapters addressing the key contemporary issues in the industry.

These high-profile figures are drawn from a wide range of stakeholder groups representing the realities of construction, including architects, client organisations (public-sector and private-sector), consultants, contractors, developers, lobby groups with special interests, policy makers, professional institutions, and trade unions.
A total of 15 influential figures were interviewed for the book, from Sir Michael Latham and Bob White to Wayne Hemmingway and Kevin McCloud.

Part One looks to the past by reviewing a series of foresight studies undertaken of the construction industry and re-presenting stories of our interviewees' lives to explain the development of leadership in the context of the construction industry. In Part Two, the authors look at the present and discuss two fundamental issues: sustainable development and governance of the construction industry. In Part Three the book concludes with an afterthought for the future, highlighting key lessons learnt putting forward a series of research questions derived from this scholarly reflection of 'futures thinking' in construction.

Throughout, the authors juxtapose the views of the 15 influential figures interviewed with a review of the salient points found in the relevant and authoritative sources of theoretical literature, both in the mainstream literature and the field of construction management. This allows the reader to benefit from the practical insights of those interviews whilst gaining a rapid understanding of the key debates of the theoretical subject under scrutiny.

About the authors.


Part 1 Tracing the past.

1 Introducing foresight in construction: exploring the missing link of personalising futures thinking.

Chapter summary.

Setting the 'scene'.

Construction foresight studies.

The 'future' agendas since the Second World War.

Contemporary foresight reports at the turn of the century.

Synthesis of critical trends and implications from the foresight reports.

Critical appraisal of foresight studies.

A note on the methodology.

The structure of the book.

Part 1: Tracing the past.

Part 2: Eliciting the future.

Part 3: Towards an afterthought.

2 Influential people in the UK construction industry: what makes leadership in construction?

Chapter summary.


Leadership theories and application in construction.

Development of leadership theories.

Application of leadership theories in construction management research.

Looking forward but learning from the past.

So what makes a 'leader' in construction?

Critical antecedent: people.

Critical antecedent: place.

Critical antecedent: events.

To be or not to be? The age-old question of nature and nurture.

Closing thoughts.

Part 2 Eliciting the future.

3 Developing a sustainable future: theoretical and practical insights into sustainable development.

Chapter summary.


Connecting people, profits and planet: the rise of the sustainability agenda.

Interactions between people and places.

Role of political leaders and infrastructure development.

Industry response to the sustainable development agenda.

Role of education and research.

Summing up the thoughts of our leading figures.

Sustainability: definitions and perspectives.

Man-made capital: problems with an output-driven model.

Human capital: the rhetoric versus reality of investing in people.

Natural capital: consensus gained or paradise lost.

Social capital: building trust and sustainable communities.

The measurement problem: are efforts towards sustainable development doomed to fail?

Closing thoughts.

4 Connecting up government, corporate and community stakeholders in governing the future of the construction industry.

Chapter summary.


Governance of the industry: seeking an institutionally coordinated response to meet the challenges of the future.

Think global act local.

The changing role of government: relinquishing control to the private sector.

Public–private interface.

People and managing relationships in construction.

Bringing interactions to the fore: exploring the intersections between government, corporate and community actors.

Shifting perspectives of governance.

Political governance: governance without government.

Corporate governance: the rise of corporate social responsibility.

Community governance: revisiting social capital.

The need for joined-up governance.

Governance in construction: the trends of privatisation and community engagement.

The relationship between government and construction.

Structure of the industry.

Changing landscape of professionalism.

Connecting political, corporate and community governance in construction: the importance of human relations.

Closing thoughts.

Part 3 Towards an afterthought.

5 The last word: synthesising lessons learnt from the journeys... .

Chapter summary.


Recap on previous chapters.

Leadership as an emergent process: moving away from individualistic notions of leadership in construction.

The missing social link of sustainable development.

The aspirations of joined-up governance.

Key conclusions.

Futures thinking as emergent thinking.

Disrupting boundaries: the age of hybrids.

Tensions, ambiguities and paradoxes.

Knowledge gaps to frame the research and practice agenda of the future.


Appendix: Brief biographies of influential figures interviewed.

Alan Ritchie.

Bob White.

Chris Blythe.

Chris Luebkeman.

George Ferguson.

Guy Hazelhurst.

Jon Rouse.

Kenneth Yeang.

Kevin McCloud.

Nick Raynsford.

Sandi Rhys Jones.

Sir Michael Latham.

Stef Stefanou.

Tom Bloxham.

Wayne Hemingway.

Notes and references.


“Overall, I found this book to provide useful insights into the past and present issues faced by the construction industry, and feel that the authors have indeed succeeded in their intention to ‘initiate a first step in providing a more scholarly reflection to the journey of constructing a future for the construction industry.”  (Construction Management and Economics, 6 April 2012)

"This academic treatise on the state of the construction industry synthesizes the thoughts and experiences of fifteen influential actors in the UK building community to present a fresh look at future research topics in project management. Divided into three sections dealing with the past, the present and the future, the work covers such topics as foresight in construction planning, leadership traits in construction, sustainability, balancing the needs of development stakeholders and directions for future studies. An appendix provides a brief biography of each of the construction leaders interviewed for this work." (Reference and Research Book News, February 2011)

"For those new to the industry, or wanting an overview, it will provide a useful summary of the some of the key issues - leadership, sustainability, and governance. The first chapter also provides a useful review of recent forsight studies and this is recommended as a reference source for anyone working on long term planning." (Competitive Advantage Consultancy Limited, January 2011)

• deconstructs the views of the leading thinkers in the construction industry
• provides practical insights as into issues confronted when creating a sustainable future for the construction industry
• an important contribution connecting the legacies of the past, challenges of the present  and hope for the future of the construction industry