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All construction companies, be they client, main contractor, designer, surveyor, sub-contractor, or supplier are therefore part of a supply chain. Because of the project based nature of construction and the way that procurement normally operates, they are usually members of different supply chains on different projects.

Modern procurement methods are moving to the appointment of integrated supply chains where the parties in the supply chain have a long-term objective to work together to deliver added value to the client. These long-term relationships enable the power of supply chain management to be fully realized.

Primary and secondaryh services

Red and green apples in a white bowl with a light green background
(LetsBuild, 2020)

Construction Services as a System

Building or construction services are usually a system comprising of multiple players or stakeholders. The services must be safe, efficient, functional and comfortable. The primary services comprises of the activities that are vital and basic to the construction activities like plumbing, drainage and water supply. In construction activities, supply of materials is usually a primary or basic service that determines the ability to complete the construction activities on time.



Red and white radishes on a white plate

source: (LetsBuild, 2020)


challenges in construction supply

There are significant challenges or difficulties that emerge in construction activities.

Client / feed, design interface: these challenges arise due to wishes of the clients being aligned and long procedures involved in discussion of the changes.

Feed design / engineering interface: These challenges arise due to design changes, incorrect documentation, extension in time for design changes and subsequent approvals. Additionally, it could occur due to wrong calculations and poor alignment of designs with construction methods resulting to lack of constructability.

Engineering / procurement, vendors interface: the challenge arises from use of inaccurate data and engineering designs that do not fit the intended use and client’s specifications.

Engineering / site interface: the problem could arise due to absence of engineering team during the field engineering activities.

Engineering, procurement / commissioning, main contractor /suppliers / commissioning interfaces: challenges in interfacing

difficult interfaces between various disciplines, problematic completion due to quality problems and safety issues that could stretch to the community.

Procurement, Vendors / Suppliers Interface and Procurement, Vendors / Subcontractors: The challenge arises due to inaccurate data, changes, and technical specifications inaccurately met. The problems are associated with poor collaboration and commitment among the suppliers, low quality materials and components for construction.

Procurement / Logistics Interface: poor logistical planning and executions, poor evaluation of logistics routes, lack of timely application for approvals, licenses and permits, and delays in customer clearance.

Logistics / Site Interface: complexity due to large shipments and poor packaging. Could also be due to bad weather or unfriendly political environment or long storage period.

Main Contractor / Subcontractors Interface: involves challenges arising from late planning and deliveries especially for permanent materials. Large shipments, numerous subcontractors’ involvement, and inadequate supply chain management practices.

Suppliers and Subcontractors / Site Interface: if there is lack of coherence and coordination between planning and delivery, long storage, poorly delivered subcontracted services. These challenges are common during contract execution and productivity levels of the different subcontractors.

Site / Completion of Project and Project Completion / Commissioning Interfaces: challenges in the completion of the project due to safety and quality challenges, and problems with location communities.

Commissioning / operation interface: unresolved quality and technical problems.


From the findings, supply chain in construction industry experiences significant volume of challenges or barriers and waste production that must be eliminated to reduce the costs through improvement in efficiency and increase quality.

Majority of these challenges arise due to multiple stakeholders’ involvement and the high interdependence between them. Failure in one stakeholders result to entire project failure, hence the need for teamwork.


Source: (LetsBuild, 2020


In order to overcome the previously mentioned problems several generic initiatives were developed to improve construction supply chains and attacked the lack of cohesion and coordination. Such as:-

Use of open building system: Open Building is an approach to the design of buildings that is recognized internationally to represent a new wave in architecture. Open building approach also recognizes that designing and constructing buildings involves many people, who, when reaching agreements, make distribution of responsibility a normal characteristic of the culture of building. In conclusion, open building is used to indicate the idea that designing is a process with multiple participants also including different kinds of professionals. 

Sequential procedure: It provides an automated method of creating static nonlinear staged construction cases that are specifically tailored to model construction sequence loading. Note that only one auto sequential construction case can be defined per model file.

Design and partnering: different parties are essential in supply of construction management materials and other supplies. Each of the stakeholders is dependent on the rest of the team. This aspect requires culture, attitude, and procedures changes to enhance best practices through a collaborative team approach in supply chain. This approach is essential in large, complex, and high risk contracts. Partnering ensures that the stakeholders work as a unitary team that is driven by common goals and vision, which ensures a win-win situation for suppliers and other stakeholders. Partnership type of relationship is important in construction works since it helps to attain strategic partnership and formation of collaborative team.

Re-engineering: the principles of re-engineering philosophy in the construction industry. This philosophy ensures that construction industry activities are developed from clearly-defined objectives. The purpose of construction process re-engineering for progressive development in integrated project delivery process through a collaborative approach. Reengineering ensures that there is increased value and predictability for better resource utilization, high efficiency and improved production and supply practices.


Quality and Information Technology: in the construction practices, integration of information technology results to improvements in productivity in project management and design development. Additionally, information technology is a critical component of the construction practices that helps in multiple stakeholders’ management.

Effective communication is an essential component of project management in construction processes, which is enabled by the integration of information technology. Quality of communication between stakeholders helps in ensuring a smooth supply processes featured by overall improvement in quality and efficiency of supply chain practices. Misinformation could result to negative outcomes in construction process due to emergence of conflicts, disputes and claims among stakeholders.

The use of information technology has the potential to integrate effectiveness and efficiency in construction practices. Recent technologies in big data analytics and artificial intelligence could revolutionalize communication in construction industry resulting to an improvement in quality of construction practices and successes in overall process.


Source: (Culmo, 2011)

Integration of IT in supply chain management has potential positive impacts. For instance, web-based systems are beneficial in reducing the interfacing barriers for effective stakeholders’ management during the supply chain processes. ICT integration is important in increasing efficiency in supply chain and enhance best practices in supply chain integration in construction activities. Stakeholders in construction industry supply chain include the contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and other players are all compatible with IT systems for best practices.


Culmo, M.P., (2011), Accelerated bridge construction-experience in design, fabrication and erection of prefabricated bridge elements and systems.

LetsBuild. (2020, July 06). What is substructure and superstructure in building? Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://www.letsbuild.com/blog/substructure-superstructure

Tang, B., (2006), Framework for prefabricated bridge elements and systems (PBES) decision-making.

Part D: Primary and Secondary Building Services

Basically, these are systems incorporated and installed in buildings to make the buildings comfortable, functional, efficient and safe for the dwellers. These services are grouped into primary and secondary systems. Primary services include those services that are crucial to the daily running of the building and they include water supply, power and electricity supply, drainage works and security and alarms installations. On the other hand, secondary building services are those services that make life of the occupants more efficient, comfortable and productive but without them, the occupants can still occupy the building. These include telephone and communication, data and internet distribution, air conditioning and heating, automatic controls, satellite dishes, time and signal system among other services.

Recommendations for Primary Services for a commercial/industrial building

A commercial building is any premises designed to accommodate activities with the intension of making profits (designing buildings, 2020). Therefore, architects and engineers tasked in designing and implementing commercial buildings needs to put into considerations the requisite primary services of such buildings. This will not only attract the intended clients for such premises but also encourage them to stay and operate their activities. A commercial building will therefore require: –

  1. Reliable and sufficient water supply systems – Water supply is vital for the daily running of any building. For the commercial building, adequate water supply will be a good incentive to attract clients into such a building. This service can be provided by the local water supply authorities or private suppliers. Thus, during the design phase of a commercial premise, enough space should be provided to make sure all areas which will require water supply are considered. Water supply cab be direct or indirect into the premises depending on the preferences of the client.

A high rise commercial building will require a pressure water service system while a low rise building may not require a pressure system and will only rely on the pressure from the supplying authorities and the force of gravity.


Source: Maze of buildings, 2018

  1. Lighting and power supply – Most commercial buildings nowadays rely entirely on energy for their daily operations. This energy is supplied to the building as electricity via a service line from the main grid. A step-down transformer is used to reduce the high voltage electrical power from the main power supply grid to the final consumers. During design therefore, considerations should be given to the different locations of power outlets within the building to ensure easy and efficient transmission of the service during installation and operation. A commercial building can incorporate a number of power sources like electricity, automatic generators or solar powered panels to make sure its clients are not deprived of energy at any given time of their daily activities. A generator can be installed at a basement within the commercial building or it can be set up at a strategic location near the building where it will not interfere with the activities of the occupants of the premises.

For solar panels, a consideration should be made during design to accommodate enough space on the penthouse to install solar powered panels. Alternatively, a designated place can be provided outside the premises where the panels can be installed.

For all lighting applications, electricity cables can be installed within the floor slabs and walls for a commercial building for easy access. However, power installation for specialized applications like powering lifts and escalators can be set up at the building basements.


Source: (UKDiss 2019) Service cables within floor slabs

The electricity supply into the building can either through underground cables or overhead supply. However, underground cables is more practical since electrical intake is hidden. (UKDiss 2019).

Schematic diagram of domestic incoming electrical service

Source: (UKDiss 2019) Power supply into a building.

Recommendations for Secondary Services for a commercial/industrial building

  1. Internet and data distribution – With increasing demand for online working and communication, internet services is a crucial service to be incorporated in any commercial premise. An office dominated commercial building will require high speed internet services compared to a market dominated commercial building. Thus, the initial design of the building should consider a layout of internet cables in all areas requiring internet connection.

  2. Lifts and escalators – A commercial building with more than three floors may require the services of a lift or an escalator for easy access and smooth moving of human traffic.

The design team can consider a central location for an escalator where access by a maximum number of clients will be achieved. An escalator is more suitable for commercial building incorporating shopping malls where the human traffic is expected to be high. On the other hand, a lift may be installed as a service in a commercial building to cater for people with disabilities.

File:L E Pic 1.png

Source: (designbuildings, 2018)

  1. Heating and air conditioning – This building service can either be primary or secondary depending on the location of the building. Air conditioning systems are crucial in areas of adverse weather conditions and for commercial buildings incorporating a number basement floors as commercial spaces. Most air conditioning systems are installed at the basements of most buildings therefore a consideration for these systems need to be included during the design stage of these commercial buildings. However, for limited space, air conditioning systems can be installed on walls and effectively serve the required occupants in the building.


Source: Energy education, 2018


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