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School research seminar series

School staff and PhD students attend a BSCPM research seminar

Our regular research seminars address topics related to management and economics in the built environment.

Highly regarded academics from around the world are invited to present research related to the built environment, management and economics to a diverse audience.


2018-19 seminars

Third term

8 July - Suzana Braga Rodrigues: The company that bribed the world: a case study on the institutionalisation of corrupt practices by a multinational construction company

13:00 - 14:00 | Room 247, 1-19 Torrington Place

Suzana Braga Rodrigues is a Professor of International Strategy at Universidade FUMEC, Brazil and Emeritus Professor of International Business and Organisation at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands.

Abstract

This seminar, jointly presented by School Lecturer Dr Armando Castro, explores how multinationals institutionalise and maintain corrupt informal institutions over extended periods of time. We focus on one of the largest construction companies in the world, Odebrecht S.A, which is currently under investigation by the Brazilian and American prosecutors and whose senior management has admitted to being part of a construction sector cartel that lasted more than a decade. 

By drawing on the case of Odebrecht, the largest construction company in Latin America, we expect to add to the understanding of the “dark side” of multinationals’ expansion. Specifically, how an emerging market multinational (EMNE) institutionalises and maintain corrupt informal organisational arrangements in its home country and abroad. Therefore we aim to increase the understanding on how corrupt informal institutions are able to persist for long periods of time, and by which mechanisms. In so doing we hope, on the basis of this knowledge, to contribute to policy making. 

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell.  

18 June - Prof Daniel Hall: Governing multi-party construction contracts through a common-pool resources lens

13:00 - 14:00 | Room 247, 1-19 Torrington Place

Prof Daniel Hall is an Assistant Professor for Innovative and Industrial Construction at ETH Zurich.

Abstract

Multi-party relational contracts such as Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Project Alliancing (PA) are increasingly used for the delivery of complex construction projects. This seminar suggests how the governance of project resources for these multi-party contract projects can theoretically align with the prevailing definition of common pool resources (CPRs), especially during the design and construction phases of the project. The proposed conceptualisation can enable synthesis of diverse case study literature for multi-party contracts, act as a theoretical foundation for future theories of collaborative project management, and contribute to the ongoing work of collective action in pluralistic, project-based organisations. Early ongoing work and future opportunities to build upon this theoretical conceptualisation will be presented and discussed. 

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell

9 May - Dr Nick Marshall: Developing sustainable innovation project routines in social enterprises: Evidence from a multi-activity support programme

13:00 - 14:00 | Room 247, 1-19 Torrington Place

Dr Nick Marshall is a Senior Research Fellow in the Brighton Business School at the University of Brighton

Abstract

This seminar reports on the Spark Project, a European-funded research currently being undertaken about innovation in social enterprises across three regions in Belgium, The Netherlands, and the UK. While there remains considerable debate about how to define social enterprise (SE), with multiple definitions being offered, these typically emphasise "two defining characteristics of SE: the adoption of some form of commercial activity to generate revenue; and the pursuit of social goals" (Doherty et al., 2014, p.420). Focusing on these dual missions, much existing research on SE explores the challenges they face as hybrid organisations seeking to balance competing institutional logics, and how these efforts are shaped by different regional and national legal and institutional settings. There has been little attention thus far paid to the nature of innovation in SE. This is perhaps surprising given that SE's innovation activities and the relative extent to which these are targeted towards commercial and social/environmental goals are likely to influence the long-term sustainability of these organisations and their ability to avoid mission drift. 
Following an action research orientation, our study involves an extensive practical implementation of a range of support measures designed to help address the challenges identified. This seminar focuses on one element of these interventions, a support programme involving 75 SEs across the three regions in a series of different activities over the course of a year, including one-to-one coaching, specialist training, international visits, access to online resources and networks, and peer-based action learning.

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell

2 May - Lois Yixi Lao: PhD Visiting research experience at Renmin University of China: research, housing challenges and urban transitions in Beijing

13:00 - 14:00 | Room 247, 1-19 Torrington Place

Lois Yixi Lao is a PhD student at BSCPM. Her PhD focuses on social housing policy, which applies theories from behavioural economics and philosophy. She has a background in mathematics and finance.

Abstract

Lois recently completed visiting research at the School of Public Administration and Policy of the Renmin University of China (Beijing, China). She spent much time exploring the city which is currently going through a significant urban transition and housing crisis. In the seminar, she will share her visiting experiences, as well as the potential themes and projects that may interest researchers at BSCPM.

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell

Second term

1 April - Prof Ghang Lee: A longitudinal study on BIM adoption in South Korea: from 2008 to 2018

15:00 - 16:00 | Room 247, 1-19 Torrington Place

Prof Ghang Lee is Professor and Director of the Building Informatics Group (BIG) at the Department of Architectural Engineering at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.

Abstract

This talk reports a longitudinal study on BIM adoption and implementation in South Korea from 2008 to 2018 conducted by the Building Informatics Group at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. The results are the outcome of biannual nationwide BIM surveys, numerous case studies, and interviews with BIM project participants and experts.

Dr Lee’s research goal is to develop technologies that can help architects, engineers, and contractors efficiently and creatively design and build buildings. His main research interests include Building Information Modeling (BIM), rule-based design validation and engineering, interoperability issues, information visualization, modular construction, and construction automation. Dr Lee is the recipient of many other awards for excellence in research, papers, and teaching including the Yonsei Best Teacher Award for the years 2006, 2007, and 2011, the Outstanding Research Achievement Award for 2011, which was given to 49 top faculty members for excellent research achievements out of approximately 1800 professors at Yonsei University. 

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell

25 March - Yan Liu: From best practices to next practices - learning in large infrastructure projects

Yan Liu is a visiting fourth-year PhD student from section Infrastructure Design and Management at Delft University of Technology (supervised by Prof Marcel Hertogh). 

Abstract

Large infrastructure projects are notoriously difficult to manage all over the world, so it is essential to learn from the successes and mistakes made by the past and on-going projects. Current literature on organisational learning does not pay enough attention at the project level.

Yan's PhD research studies different learning modes (codification and personalisation) and ambidexterity (explorative and exploitative learning) in different project phases (front-end and on-going execution) and in programs and megaprojects. The topic is investigated in cases of the replacement and renovation of ship locks program (MultiWaterWork), the longest tunnel project (Gaasperdammertunnel) in the Netherlands, and Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge in China. Action research, ethnographic research, grounded theory, and PLS-SEM are used to collect and analyze the data. The research will provide suggestions for improving the management learning of future large infrastructure projects.

6 March - Dr Siavash Alimadadi: Organising front end in large-scale projects: initial thoughts on theoretical frames

Dr Siavash Alimadadi is a Visiting Lecturer from Uppsala University

Abstract

We aim to understand the creation of orders (i.e. time, budget, scope) in the front end of large-scale projects. Such projects provide an excellent setting to observe and to theorize organizing processes at early stages of a project’s life, when there may be less shared and embedded understanding. As the new orders emerge from a complex and fluid world of possible alternatives, we can observe phenomena that often remain dormant in the “normal” settings of permanent organizations. It also provide a unique setting to understand the dynamics surrounding the imposition of different models of organization and how phenomena co-constitute each other, which help us to go beyond implicit dualism underlying many mainstream management and organization studies.

As well as the above, this seminar will discuss the progress of our research project: Evaluating Decision-making Processes at the Early Stages of the Restoration and Renewal (R&R) of the Palace of Westminster. This complex programme aims to transform a purpose-built 19th-century building and make it fit for the 21st century.

First term

5 December - Kate Gasparro: Crowdfunding Our Cities: What it really means to democratize local infrastructure delivery


Kate Gasparro is a visiting PhD student from Stanford University

Abstract

Crowdfunding started as an idea that brought together micro-finance and crowdsourcing principles. Now, crowdfunding has evolved beyond its fringe popularity to become its own market force. In the same way that small and medium enterprises were leveraging crowdfunding platforms for access to capital, developers and civic organizations have been eager to tap into this new funding mechanism to construct new infrastructure assets. While the trend of crowdfunding infrastructure has become more accepted by way of local government adoption and new policies, we are unsure what this means for our cities. This presentation will take on crowdfunding infrastructure through three lenses to show us how we can understand, plan for, and mitigate risks associated democratized local infrastructure delivery. 

If you are not UCL staff or a UCL student and you would like to come to this research seminar please email Sarah Pepperrell

1 November - Dr Alice Owen: The next frontier for research and sustainabiliy in construction - working with SMEs

Dr Alice Owen is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.

Abstract

Transforming our existing buildings to be sustainable and resilient is recognised as a major challenge – and a challenge that needs to be met if ambitious carbon reduction goals are to be met.   The construction industry is complex and heterogeneous.  Policy and action often, understandably, focusses on big firms, and new build, where there seems to be leverage points for change.  Even here, progress to change working practices and outputs is slow, and this work leaves untouched the hundreds of thousands of people working on projects which, day by day, alter existing buildings. 

Drawing on empirical work with small firms in the construction supply chain, this seminar will offer insights into how the construction value chain can be described, and what drives priorities, action and innovation.

From these ideas, a second wave of challenges emerge – what kind of research helps unlock the potential of the sector and transforms the sector as well as transforming buildings? What kind of researchers might undertake such research?  And how does exploratory research with hard to reach actors become robust enough to be useful for policymaking at scale?

4 October - Prof Cecilia Almeida: Exploring cities for sustainable opportunities

Cecilia Almeida is a Professor at the Production and Environment Laboratory at Universidade Paulista.

Abstract

The great urban population growth generates several changes in life style, land use, energy demand and consequent environmental pressure. In this way, studies related to environmental sustainability of urban systems and the availability of natural resources are of major importance. Within these systems, several opportunities appear, and their quantitative assessment is crucial to understand and foresee their effect providing practical information to urban planners and policy makers.

Several opportunities are assessed and discussed: the provision of ecosystem services and the costs and supply of supporting and regulating services provided by urban parks; municipal potential prosperity, carrying capacity and trade; the limits to growth of urban systems; internal stocks in assessing the sustainability of urban systems; domestic wastewater treatments; and urban solid waste plant treatment.

2017-18 seminars

Second term

28 March - Dr Rashedur Chowdhury: Understanding and enhancing stakeholder capability

Dr Rashedur Chowdhury is an Assistant Professor of Management at University College Dublin.

Abstract
Our stakeholder-centric entrepreneurship framework offers a perspective on how to combine entrepreneurial opportunities as means and stakeholder capability as ends so that firms can address critical social problems while remaining innovative and competitive.
 
When firms adopt marginalized stakeholders capability development, firms provide stakeholders with diverse skill sets and various forms of choices and freedom. This enables firms to create an increased set of high potential opportunities for all stakeholders because marginalized stakeholders bring new ideas that are a source of innovation and higher-level learning for other stakeholders.
 
The sustained success of firms therefore relies on the enhancement of stakeholder capability rather than value creation through separate sets of purely economic and social activities

7 March – Professor Henrik Linderoth: How digital technologies are affecting the built environment and construction industry

Professor Henrik Linderoth is Professor in Construction Informatics at Jönköping University.

Abstract
Prof Linderoth discussed a research in progress on how the three perspectives can contribute to a more fine-grained understanding of digitally driven value creation in the building and construction industry. The presentation focused on key components in the three perspectives and how these are aligned with the industry’s features.

21 February – Fergus Green: China’s “new normal” economy: change, resistance, and the implications for climate mitigation

Fergus Green is a climate policy consultant and a researcher at London School of Economics and Political Science

Abstract
President Xi Jinping proclaimed in 2014 that China was entering a “new normal” period of economic development in which GDP growth would slow but the country’s growth model would be more sustainable and inclusive. In this presentation, Fergus will discuss how this “new normal” has evolved and its implications for China’s carbon dioxide emissions trajectory and global climate change mitigation, drawing on his work on this topic with Lord Stern and others (Green and Stern 2015, 2016, 2017; Qi et al. 2016).

25 January – Dr Raymond Young: Research Update for “Accidental Sponsors” – Guiding questions to implement policy, strategy and create value through projects

Dr Raymond Young is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Business of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra.

Abstract
This presentation rose the question of whether there is a dysfunctional relationship between top managers and projects to implement their business strategy. Evidence was presented to suggest that projects are not contributing much to strategy and a project governance mechanism was presented as a possible solution.

The proposed governance solution has been recognised by Wiley as leading edge and they have commissioned Dr Raymond Young and Dr Vedran Zerjav to publish their ideas as a book for ‘accidental project sponsors’. Attendees at the presentation will be invited to provide feedback on the solution and suggest how the book initiative might have maximal impact on project governance practice internationally.

10 January - Dr Rahul Kumar: Orchestrating micro innovation projects in a mega-project: distal agency in steering developmental innovations through conflictual routines

Dr Rahul Kumar is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Loughborough University.

Abstract
In this inductive study, he uses the conflicts in the temporality of an organization's routines with the temporality of an innovation practice to theorize how distal actors outside a routine can orchestrate its performative temporality.
 
Distal actors are those actors who have a stake in how routines are performed but have no direct role or discretion in their performance. He finds that these actors use two strategies. First, they used narrative accounts to shape the social cognition of actors embedded within the routine. Second, they mobilized compensatory routines in the broader ecology of routines. He contributes to the literature on organizational routines by drawing attention to their inherent temporality and theorize the process of the influence over these routines.

The core contribution of this paper is highlighting how the use of narrative accounts and the mobilization of compensatory routines can enable planning-oriented organizational routines to harness fluid and fleeting innovation opportunities.

First term

13 December - Dr Thies Lindenthal: Observing the unobservable: Using deep learning and Google Streetview to value architecture

Dr Thies Lindenthal is University Lecturer for Real Estate Finance and Director of Studies for Land Economy St John’s College.

Abstract
This seminar explores ways to collect pictures of individual buildings from Google StreetView, extract information from these pictures by training convoluted deep neural networks, and to use the derived information in the analysis of property transaction price.
 
In short, we observe usually unobservable characteristics from a ubiquitous source, relate them to property values, and, along the way, hope to answer the questions whether architecture adds value.

29 November - McKay Price: Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment in Real Estate

McKay Price is Associate Professor in the Perella Department of Finance at Lehigh University and the Collins-Goodman Chair in Real Estate Finance.

Abstract
Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) are a burgeoning class of state-owned institutional investors with assets under management of $7.5 trillion as of the end of 2016.  Moreover, their appetite for real property investment appears to be substantial.  For example, real estate accounted for 26% of all SWF acquisitions in 2012 (Megginson and Fotak 2015).  SWF activity captivates the financial press and invites interest from policy makers.

Nonetheless, the academic literature has been virtually silent with respect to SWF real estate investment. We examine SWF real estate activity (e.g., what and where they buy) and determine whether SWFs behave in a unique manner.  To accomplish this, we compare SWFs with an institutional investor group that shares their most defining characteristic (i.e., state ownership) in common, public pension funds (PPFs).

17 November - Professor Lena Bygballe: How institutional projects help mobilizing change in the realm of institutional complexity: a case of climate adaptation

Professor Lena Bygballe is an Associate Professor and Head of Centre for the Construction Industry at the Department of Strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School.

Abstract
Institutional complexity is found to delay compliance to new institutional demands by decision makers (Raaijmakers, Vermeulen, Meeus, & Zietsma, 2015). Decisions are delayed because it is hard to understand what to do and who is responsible when facing institutional complexity. In this study, we examine the role of institutional projects as mobilizers of speeding up institutional change even though high degrees of institutional complexity is present.

We argue that the (built) community, which includes decision makers on several levels, is characterized by multiple institutional logics, and institutional complexity, and that these characteristics largely explain why climate adaptation is still relatively slow. What is the role of institutional projects in mobilizing change in the realm of institutional complexity?

15 November - Christina Li: To sell or not to sell: the strategic supply in the new housing market

Christina Li is a Research Associate in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge.

Abstract
Developers have an option to defer listing their properties on the market for spot sale until they are more confident about the demand. They can also start sales earlier before completion (presale) to mitigate the future real estate price uncertainty and capitalize on favourable market conditions. The decision on the timing of sale becomes an optimal stopping problem by comparing the benefits of waiting versus that of immediate sales.  We utilize a rich dataset of residential developments in Hong Kong to examine developers’ sale timing decision.

Based on the survival analysis, we find that the likelihood of sale is increasing (decreasing) in the expected future price volatility in the presale (spot sale) market. The standard prediction of “option to wait” is only favoured in the spot sale market, whereas developers selling uncompleted projects are motivated to list for sale sooner if facing uncertain demand. Such motivation to presell in advance increases with the size of the development portfolio held by the developers, suggesting the varying effectiveness of presale as a hedging tool.

We also provide evidence that competition from uncompleted projects exert stronger impact of attenuating the extent of sale delay caused by increases in price volatility. These results remain robust when a selection correction model was employed to reduce the potential bias caused by the endogeneity of presale choices.

10 October - Caroline Nowacki: How a sovereign development fund shaped a network of co-investments to support regional development

Caroline Nowacki is a doctoral candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University.

Abstract:
Where does institutional innovation come from? The periphery or the centre of a field? What if we've been defining this all wrong for lack of measuring it?

Sovereign development funds are government-owned organizations in charge of investing for financial returns and development. They use co-investments to support their countries' urban and regional development. But how do they attract international co-investors, and how do they achieve both political and financial goals?

We answer these questions through a case study of a sovereign development fund that attracted $50 bn in investments in six sectors in ten years in previously agricultural regions, and where others had failed. Interviews and a network analysis of co-investments gives insight into the position of the sovereign fund in the network of co-investments and how this position supported a process of institutional change in the region. Theoretically, we contribute to the question of how the position of actors (central or peripheral) influences their capacity to innovate and create a following for their innovation. We propose to refine the definitions and measures of centrality to better understand how structure supports the process of institutional change.

research seminars