The Effects of Delays and Interruption in Construction Projects


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Delays and interruptions are part of the challenges encountered in the execution of projects dealing with construction. Delays and interruptions are possible sources of risk that current studies seek to curtail such as social, financial, economic, legal, technical, resource, and commercial. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the causes and effects of interruptions in construction projects. This study is expressive, designed to gather the opinions of consulting firms, regulators, customers, and construction companies about the causes and effects of delays in construction projects. Two sampling systems were used to select the respondents, namely: random and intentional sampling. A review of the literature, questionnaires, and interviewing methods were used to collate data for this study. The results reveal that the main reasons of delays and disruptions are: issues of funding, compensation problem, design changes, late payments to contractors, evaluation disagreement on work done, delays in information, and mismanagement of projects. On the other hand, budget increase, time overruns, idle resources, conflict of interest, and negative social impacts are the major outcome of delays and interruptions. It is concluded in this study that there are still several causes of delays and interruptions and that their effects jeopardize construction projects ending up in affecting their performance. Therefore, it is recommended that the timely issuance of information, skills in project management, sufficient construction budget and design completion are the main objective of the parties in the procurement process of the project.

Key Words: Causes, Effects Delays, Disruption, Construction Project

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The delay in construction is an extended period of construction and interruptions are events that interrupt the timeline of construction. Delays and interruptions are among the challenges encountered in the execution of construction projects. The problem of delay faced in the construction industry is encountered worldwide. There are two basic occurrence of delay in the construction industry: simple and complex. In a short delay, it means not completing the project for the purpose budgeted cost and time as agreed. The existence of a delay may coincide with various forms of delays and all this can affect the end date of the project. Although, long delays are also experienced and therefore, they exceed the original estimates of time and cost. As delay in construction is considered one of the recurring problems the construction industry and it has a negative result in the achievement of a project. Previous studies have shown that the failure of any project is mainly related to problems and performance failures of the project causing a delay or an overflow of budget and time exceed in the project (Abd Majid and Mccraffer (1998), Alwi and Hampson (2003), Assaf and Al-Hejji (2006), Assaf, Al-Khalif and Al-Hajmi (1995)). Delays and interruptions are potential sources of risk that recent studies seek to manage. Several studies (Cohen and Palmer, 2004, and the BALOI Award, 2003, Finnerty, 1996, Miller and Lessard, 2001) have identified that project management also entails the type of and sources of construction risks that require management. There are also risks and factors (Zou, Zhang and Wang, 2006, Aiyetan, Smallwood and Shakantu, 2008) affecting the delivery period of the construction project which also cause delays in construction project.

They have been the cause of the delays identified in various parts of the world such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Thailand (Sambasivan and soon, 2007, Al-Kharashi and Skitmore 2008, Al-Moumni , 2000, Kumaraswamya and Chan). 1998; Noulmanee, Wachirathamrojn, Tantichattanont and Sittivijan, 1999). It is disclosed in the result that there are differences and similarities in the causes of delays.

Delays and interruptions have had an impact on project construction. Some of these effects are (Aibinu and Jagboro, 2002, Sambasivan and soon, 2007): total abandonment, arbitration, budget increase, litigation and time overrun. The purpose of this study is to identify the causes and effects of delays in the construction sector.



Delay is referred to in construction as something that happens later than expected, planned, or stated in a contract, or outside the date decided by the parties for the completion of a project (Pickavance, 2005). Lo, Fung Tung (2006) defines the delay to be the slowdown of working without completely stopping the construction and can lead to not meeting up to the time stated in a contract or beyond the date agreed by the parties for the delivery of the project.

Delays occur in the majority of the project in the construction industry, it might be defined as an excess of time beyond the end date stated in the contract or after the date on which the involved parties have agreed about the project delivery (Assaf and Ai-Hejji 2006).

The problem of overflowing project time and cost overruns is confronted many countries and the study of the causes of these problems are also encountered, as in Nigeria (Aibinu A. and Odeyinka H. 2006), Saudi Arabia Arabia (Assaf S. and Al-Hejji S. 2006), India (Singh R., 2010), Jordan (Sweis G., Sweis R., Hammad A. and Schboul A. 2008), Zambia (Aigbavboa, C., & Thwala, W. 2014), Hong Kong (Tommy Y., Ivan W. and Karen C. 2006), Egypt (Mohamed M. and Tarek I. 2013), Malaysia (Hamzah N., Khoiry M., Arshad I., Tawil N. and Che A. 2011). In most construction projects, good results do not occur with poor productivity which results in a time lapse and, consequently, an increase in the costs of projects.

A research was made by Singh R (2010), on budget increase and time and from this study, a major cause of budget increase is delay. Wei K. S. (2010) discussed in his research, the main delay causes, its effects and ways of reducing or curtailing these construction delays. It was majorly focused on contractor, client and consultant related delay as the most important.

Syed Azhar, Castillo and Kappagantula (2002) categorize delays as non-excusable delays, excusable non-compensable delays, excusable compensable delays and concurrent delays. Non-excusable delays are delays that the contractor causes or assumes the risk for. Excusable non-compensable delays are justifiable delays that occur from factors that are unpredictable, beyond the reasonable control of the contractor and are not ascribable to the fault or negligence of the contractor. The work of Mohammed and Isah shows that non-compensable delay is caused by third parties or incidents beyond the control of both the owner and the contractor where the contractor is normally entitled to a time extension but no compensation for delay damages and Compensable delay is caused by the owner or the owner’s agents. A compensable delay is a delay where the contractor is entitled to a time extension and to additional compensation such as payment for the delay. Relating back to the excusable and non-excusable delays, only excusable delays can be compensable. Compensable excusable delays are justifiable delays, interruption or suspensions that are compensable, to all or a portion of the work that is caused by actions taken by the owner leading to the proprietary breach of an obligation, whether declared or insinuated in the contract. Concurrent delays exist when the owner along with the contractor are the cause for the delay. Menesi (2007) categorised delay according to his study into two, all based on their liability and these categories are the inexcusable and excusable delay.

Delays that affect the end date of the project based on contract agreement are critical delays, as non-critical delays have no effect on the end date of the project. A delay that is outside the control of the contractor or that is to say, from unpredictable activities outside the contractors control is an excusable delay. Theodore writes that delays that affect the project completion time or date are considered as critical delays. Delays that do not affect the project completion time or date are noncritical delays. If certain activities are delayed in the construction project life cycle, the project completion date will be delayed. Determining which activities truly control the project completion date depends on the following: the project itself, the contractor’s plan and schedule (particularly the critical path), the requirement of the contract for sequence and phasing and the physical constraint of the project, i.e. how to build the job from a practical perspective. Justifiable or excusable delays not with recompense are delays not caused by the contractor or client. A contractor can manage an unjustifiable or non-excusable delay and in this case it is blamed on the contractor as the client has rights to sue for damages by law.

An unjustifiable delay cannot be compensable and a compensable delay can be defined as a type of delay in which the contractor has right to seek prolongation of time and also added compensation.


Interruptions are events that disrupt the construction program. Workflow interference in a project are major interruptions (Howick, Ackermann, Eden and Williams, 2009). Howicket al (2009) notes that various disruptions in complex projects are expected at the bidding stage as it is expected to occur during the project (Howick et al, 2009). Taking an instance, in general a level of rework is expected, even when all is going as planned, due to the probability that there will always be “regular” mistakes and errors by the client and contractor (Ibid).

Risks in construction projects and delays

The management of construction projects entails a large number of management risks. Risk management deals with: identification, planning, analysis, development of strategies in risk management, monitoring and control. Project team members, especially consultants, contractors and clients, must totally avoid or alleviate delays when fulfilling their respective roles.

Main risks according to Mills (2001) are plant and labour productivity, climate and materials quality. Construction risks is classified by Baloi and Price (2003) as being construction, financial, technical, legal, social, commercial, economic, logistic, political and natural. Similarly, the bases of construction risks were identified by Cohen and Palmer (2004) to include insufficient qualified workforce; oversights or errors in design; poorly stated roles and responsibilities; remodel in the requirements and scope of the project; force majeure; and latest innovative technology. The same risk has been ranked by some other researchers like Miller and Lessard (2001) and Finnerty (1996) also with completion, exploitation, sovereignty, regulation, demand and supply.

Risks from project delivery period is identified by Zou et al (2006) as design variations, avoidable procedures for approval in government administrative departments, incomplete approval, tight project schedule, inadequate planning of the construction program, client variations, and inadequate programming of the program.

Delays and Interruption Causes

Construction projects are completed in a timely manner, the scenario requiring adequate time management, in particular, avoiding all delays and interruptions. The causes of construction delays in Hong Kong according to Kumaraswamy and Chan (1998) study discovered differences in opinions and mind-set as to delays causes by various group of participants in civil and construction engineering works. They recommended that the prejudices of different groups in the industry might blame others for the delays. The causes of delays in 130 public projects in Jordan was investigated by Al-Momani (2000) and found that the major causes of delay were related to the conditions of the weather, user changes, site conditions, quantity increase, untimely delivery, designer and economic conditions. Noulmanee et al (1999) investigated the causes of delays in road construction in Thailand and stated that delays in the project can be caused by all parties involved; although, the main causes are from shortcomings between contractors and consultants, incomplete and confused plans, organizations without adequate resources and the inefficiency of subcontractors.

Chan and Kumaraswamy (1997) and also Rider, R. J. & Long, R. J. (2013) analyzed the delay factors in construction projects and identified delay in decision making, non-monitoring and mismanagement of risk, unanticipated conditions, job variations and variations from clients. Other delay factors in a study conducted by Mohammed, K. A. & Isah, A. D. (2013) and Kaming, Olomolaiye, Holt and Harris (1997) are classified in budget increase and overrun of time. The study reveals that the main factors influencing budget increase are overpriced materials caused by inflation, the imprecise valuation of the material and the degree of complexity. Conversely, in overrun of time, the leading factors causing delays are: scarcity of resources, low labour productivity, design changes and inadequate planning. Haseeb, Xinhai-Lu, Bibi, Maloof-ud-DyIan and Rabbani (2011) highlighted that the most common delay factors are natural disasters as well as earthquakes and floods in Pakistan. Other factors were also recognized: inadequate planning, low level of experience bad site management, financial and payment problems and equipment and materials shortage.

Effects of Delays and Interruptions

In Nigeria, Aibinu and Jagboro (2012) identified six effects of delay in project delivery in the construction industry which are: litigation, budget increase, disagreement, total abandonment arbitration and overtime. These were also stated in the study by Sambasivan and Soon (2007) in the Malaysia. Also in Ghana, Chileshe and Berko (2010) pointed out that causes of budget increase are delay in sectional payment to contractors as agreed, inflation, miss of agenda and variations. Haseebet al (2011) classifies the effects of delays in Pakistan’s construction industry such as claims, conflicts, collision, total desertion and slower growth in the construction sector. Ramabodu and Verster (2010) and Aiyetan, A., Smallwood, J. & Shakantu, W. (2011). identify the critical factors causing budget increase in the construction projects as contractual demands for increase in estimation of budget and time, delays in cost variations, incomplete design during submission, alterations in the work scope on the site, poor planning cost and funds tracking and supplementary work.

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