Building construction: A deterministic non-periodic flow – A case study of chaos theories in tracking production flow Academic Article uri icon


  • The authors recast the definition of construction as an organization-based planning and placing of information-rich objects and systems in a co-moving patch of space-time. In short, for the purposes of this article, building construction is a deterministic non-periodic flow activated and populated by a temporary virtual organization of stakeholders and exhibits all the characteristics of a complex system. The emergence of unpredictable and sometimes unexpected situations in execution may push this complicated or complex production system into becoming chaotic. Currently, Project Management thought implies that project management (command) is identical to manufacturing (execution), a paradigm that, when applied to construction, implies that construction is predictable. In real life, the number of players and phases creates an environment where a plan may experience high levels of emergent variability in the form of accelerations and decelerations of planned work. This emergence of variability in situ may lead to chaotic conditions. Hence, we find the structural problems inherent in predicting, forecasting a project flow and doing conventional experimentation and case study research: exact building construction is non-repeatable (one of a kind). This article visits the theories of chaos and shows where they may apply in the context of an organization involved in the emergence of self-organization, the act of constructing buildings. In other words, according to Gleick, randomness has its own underlying order. This statement, although apparently contradictory, is the essence and fundamental basis for finding the underlying order in chaotic systems. A case study of tracking building construction production flow is performed and chaos theories are visualized through models. The case study captures both value and waste generation by tracking construction flow through the metrics of budgeted and actual cost and time and its relation to Percent (Promised) Plan Complete and owner payments as well as subcontractors' progress payments. Furthermore, chaos theory, and its peculiar research methodology, showcases how complex and messy construction production could be measured and interpreted. The article argues that chaos theories are a viable scientific approach and provide appropriate tools for understanding building design and construction as production that is by its systemic nature deterministic and non-periodic. © 2013 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

published proceedings

  • Architectural Engineering and Design Management

author list (cited authors)

  • Fernandez-Solis, J. L

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Fernandez-Solis, Jose L

publication date

  • February 2013