Early contractor involvement (ECI): ways to do it in public projects

Publication Date08 Jan 2020
AuthorPaulos A. Wondimu,Ole Jonny Klakegg,Ola Lædre
SubjectPublic policy & environmental management,Politics,Public adminstration & management,Government,Economics,Public finance/economics,Taxation/public revenue
Early contractor involvement
(ECI): ways to do
it in public projects
Paulos Abebe Wondimu,Ole Jonny Klakegg and Ola Lædre
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Purpose Early contractor involvement (ECI) faces many barriers because it differs from traditional
business practices. Public owners, especially, face a major challenge because they must comply with
internationaland national legislation. The purpose of this paper is to develop a framework thatillustrates the
various approachesthat public project ownerscan take to implement ECI.
Design/methodology/approach In addition to a literature review, threegroups of case studies were
carried out. The case studies were basedon 54 semi-structured in-depth interviews with key personnel from
21 Norwegianpublic projects and document study.
Findings In all, 25 approachesto ECI were identied during the research. Twelve of these were used in the
cases studied.
Social implications There are several approachesto ECI that are suitable for public owners.However,
the contractorscontribution depends on which approach is implementedand how it is implemented.
Originality/value As original contribution, this studypresents a novel framework that denes options
for implementing ECI in public projects. Furthermore, this paper provides insights on how ECI can be
implemented in public projectsbased on Norwegian experiences. Although the empirical data of the study is
limited to Norwegian public projects, this study contributes to knowledge about how to implement ECI
Keywords Public procurement, Public projects, Best value procurement (BVP),
Competitive dialogue (CD), Early contractor involvement (ECI)
Paper type Research paper
Contractors may be more experienced than the client and the designer when it comes to
buildability, construction methods, materials and local practice (Rahman and Alhassan,
2012). The client has to choose a project delivery model. However, traditional project
delivery models fail to integrate contractorsexperiences in the early phases of projects.The
development towards more complex projects demands, however, alternative (evolving)
project delivery methods to ensure appropriate project delivery, contract compliance and
quality assurance (Molenaaret al.,2007). One of the evolving approaches is early contractor
involvement (ECI) (Lahdenperä, 2016;Molenaar et al.,2007;Manley and Chen, 2017). ECI
© Paulos Abebe Wondimu, Ole Jonny Klakegg and Ola Lædre. Published by Emerald Publishing
Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence.
Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both
commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and
authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/
Received18 March 2019
Revised25 October 2019
Accepted28 November 2019
Journalof Public Procurement
Vol.20 No. 1, 2020
pp. 62-87
EmeraldPublishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JOPP-03-2019-0015
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
facilitates implementation of innovative, efcient and value-adding solutions through
building trust-based cooperation between clients and contractors (Ozorhon, 2013;Ozorhon
et al.,2014;Ozorhon et al.,2015;Wondimuet al., 2018c).
Early phases of projects are typically understood to be the pre-construction phases. The
primary purpose of ECI is to bring contractor construction knowledge and experience into
pre-construction phases of projects. Of particular interest is the improvement in value for
money and project delivery time by comparison with traditional project delivery methods
(Scheepbouwer and Humphries, 2011). Research reports that the construction industry has
had positive experiencesfrom practicing ECI (Lahdenperä, 2013;Naoum and Egbu, 2016).
ECI refers to the engagement of the contractor in the early stage of projectdevelopment
through a wide range of approaches (Rahmani et al.,2014). Public owners from different
countries have developed ECI approaches based on their necessities and circumstances
(Rahmani et al., 2013;Wondimu et al., 2018a). Consequently, there is no universal approach
to ECI in public projects.
ECI is challenging for European public owners because of European Union public
procurement directives. There are few sources that have documented how public owners
can implement ECI and which approaches to ECI that exist. The overall motivation of this
research is to develop a novel framework through literature review and by studying
experiences from the Norwegian context that illustrates the various approaches public
owners can use to implement ECI. The study helps public clients to design an appropriate
ECI approach that suits their project.
Clients should answer three core questions before involving contractors in an early phase of
their projects: When do they want them to become involved? Why do they want them to
become involved? How to achieve this involvement? After clients have answered these
questions, several ways to implement ECI exist. This paper helps public clients to answer the
third question.
The research questionsaddressed in this paper are:
RQ1. What do public ownersdo to implement ECI?
RQ2. What options do publicowners have when they want to implement ECI?
This study has some limitations: the empirical data is limited to Norwegian public
construction projects and the study is limited to the procurement phase. Furthermore, the
identied approaches arenot studied in depth to understand under which project types they
function best. The different approaches are not prioritized based on suitability for different
situations, neither.
Early contractor involvement approaches identied in literature
International ECI approaches are presented in this section. The identied approaches are
summed up in a table at the end of thissection.
Integrated project delivery (IPD), alliance and partnering are three relational project
delivery methods that stand out globally. One of the common motives of these methods is
ECI (Lahdenperä, 2012).
IPD is a project delivery methodthat integrates people, systems, business structuresand
practices by using relational contracts(Gokhale, 2011). Early involvement of all parties is at
the core of IPD (Kent and Becerik-Gerber, 2010;Lahdenperä, 2012). In the USA, IPD is used
to implement ECI.
Even though ECI does not require the use of technologicaltools, the coupling of building
information modeling (BIM) with IPD can greatly increase the efciency of collaboration in

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