Circumventing obstacles in digital construction design - a workaround theory perspective


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Building Information Modeling (BIM) has proven its value for design in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry . However, currently only a few leading firms succeed in reaping the full potential of BIM. Especially, specialist designers rema in exc luded from innovative practices. Reasons include the technical hurdles of BIM adoption and a misfit between human agency versus the affordances of BIM. Not all designers have the capabilities required to actively partake in BIM. Thus, BIM practice is often ‘messy’ and characterized by a large degree of unnecessary rework and workarounds. “How and why digital workarounds unfold in BIM design?” is at the core of the inquiry reported in this paper. Based on a ‘fresh’ theoretical approach entitled T heory of Workarounds, we explicate the nature of BIM related workarounds. The industrial setting involves an office refurbishment project in Oslo, Norway. Many specialist designers remained excluded from BIM in this project and a range of different workarounds have been conducted. We portray how and why digital workarounds happened. This provides valuable learning for researchers and practitioners interested in digital workarounds in construction. We contribute to better understanding of messy practices surrounding BIM and to drawing the attention of scholars to workarounds as an area in need of further research. Lastl y, our work constitutes an early application of Alter’s Theory of Workarounds in the setting of a construction project.



© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

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