Framework for a generic work breakdown structure for building projects

Yahaya Makarfi Ibrahim, Ammar Kaka, Ghassan Aouad, Mike Kagioglou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to propose a framework for the standardisation of the work breakdown structure (WBS) for building projects. This is based on the premise that buildings in general retain basic elemental options, and that there is a commonality of activities in the procurement of building projects.

Design/methodology/approach – To achieve the objective, the general practice of developing the WBS is investigated. This is achieved by means of an industry-wide questionnaire survey designed to identify the most widely used criteria among UK construction organisations in segregating building works into packages. The survey also investigates the sequencing of these criteria across the WBS hierarchy. 

Findings – The findings reveal that the most frequently used decomposition criteria in the formulation of WBS for building projects are elements, work sections, physical location and construction aids. The proposed framework is presented as a hierarchical decomposition of a building project based on these criteria. It allows for flexibility in level of detail while maintaining a rigid sequencing of the criteria based on their frequency of use. 

Originality/value – This paper reports on a specific part of an EPSRC funded project that aims to investigate the application of computer vision techniques to the on-site measurement of construction progress. The part reported in this paper addresses planning issues that will lead to automatic generation of work packages. Previous studies have focused on automating the planning aspect by associating individual components with schedule information. However, large construction projects usually consist of thousands of components. Planning and tracking progress at the level of the component is unrealistic in these instances. The standardisation framework reported in this paper will form the basis for automating the formulation of work packages, thus providing a uniform basis for tracking progress (based on computer vision) during project execution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-405
Number of pages18
JournalConstruction Innovation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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