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Productivity studies in Nordic building- and construction industry

  • Published 28/02/2004
  • Last updated 08/06/2011
The background for the project is that there in all Nordic countries has been an increased attention to the question of productivity in building and construction industry (B&C industry) in the later years.

Frontpage report

The increased interest might be explained by increasing building- and construction cost in general and also by the common opinion saying that the B&C-industry doesn’t cope with other types of industries with respect to productivity. 

The main goal was to

  1. “Carry out a survey on R&D activities on the field of productivity measurement and evaluation in building of blocks of flat s in the Nordic countries.

  2. If methods and/or tools for the purpose are considered to be useful in the common scope, this/these shall be improved and prepared for common use.

  3. Likewise, if there are identified local initiatives of obvious productivity improvement effect, the project shall spread information about this throughout all the five countries”.

The three specific tasks have been addressed in this report are 


1. The survey of R&D activities 

Regarding productivity as a scientific item, a mathematic or an economic value to be measured and analysed, almost nothing has been done in the field of Building and Construction the last ten years. I might have happened that some scientific method has been used inside a single company, but nothing have been observed published since the University of Luleå Thesis in 1996 (Johsson 1996). - Caused by the concern of seemingly strong growing prices in housing, both governments and industry in each country has during the last few years paid more attention to this matter. As a consequence the word productivity is more and more been take into use by the different parties, and some studies have been carried out.


2. Methods and tools for common use 

The project verifies that there are different methods/tools in use in the five countries. The suitability with respect to neutral measurement of productivity has been discussed in chapter 3. The conclusion is that even if there had been revealed one outstanding method, recommended for common use, the will be a number of technical and practical challenges to exceed.

  • The first one is the difference in project account systems even within one country, which makes it hard to have comparable cost figures for building projects

  • The second one is the differences in measuring/defining building areas

  • Thirdly there are a lack of methods when it comes to measuring functional and technical standard of buildings

  • And finally the different possibility to get complete information from developers and contractors

3. Local initiatives of obvious productivity improvement effect 

Many initiatives are taken into use to improve productivity in each country. The problem is that it is mostly based on intuition (“gut feeling”) and not on qualified measurement of efficiency due to difference in certain technical or managerial conditions. On governmental level in each country, there have been established similar programs, as in other European countries, to improve competitiveness. Over the last twenty years “Quality” has been the mantra, and certainly it has been a substantial initiative to improved productivity in many companies. The problem is still that the effects are difficult to measure as long as no measuring tools are available. 


In each company it is from time to time possible to measure the effect of an initiative by measuring the cost “before and after”. How exact the measurement method is doesn’t matter as long as it suites the actual company. For a common, multinational purpose a more scientific method for improvement measurement still is wanted. R&D making it possible for the industry to study its own performance in a systematic way and through this identifies the most cost-reducing or profit-increasing initiatives, should be useful. As such, we believe that the Nordic synergy project and this report also is one step in the continuous work of building a more productive and competitive industry in the Nordic countries. 


Network for productivity 

The aim was to “Establish a network for productivity research in the Nordic countries, based on the contacts established through focusing the building of blocks of flats”. – In the synergy project five R&D institutions have represented the five countries with long history in the field of building and construction research. In a majority of the country cooperation with considerable house building companies has been central during the project period. The contact established between the five institutions, and the cooperation between the researchers and the house builders, must be a potential for future productivity studies in the Nordic countries as a whole or in each country. 


Project duration: 01.04.2001 - 31.12.2003

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