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Exploring the influence of socio-historical constructs on BIM implementation: an activity theory perspective

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Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been widely seen as bringing a paradigm change to the construction industry. However, scholars have acknowledged that neither widespread BIM implementation nor the envisaged systemic changes within the sector have taken place. Despite acknowledging that the industry’s conditions and embedded contexts shape innovation diffusion, existing studies have not explored in any depth “how” the context might influence the episode of change when a new technology is introduced and the new practices accompanying that technology and old practices co-evolve. By adopting activity theory, its concepts of contradictions and multiple layers within the activity system, in this paper, we explore the interaction between situated and existing practices, or the “how” of implementation; that is, how the activity system is questioned and redefined during an episode of technological change. Drawing on data from multiple case studies, our findings demonstrate that situated practices related to the definition of information requirements, and the production and the handover of information were re-enacted following institutionalised socio-historical constructs (e.g. norms, rules, division of labour) at the industry and organisational levels. The findings provide insights regarding the inertia in the transformation of the sector as also deriving from re-enactments of socio-historical constructs that mediate the institutionalisation of situated practices. Our findings reveal re-enactment as part of the transformation process and contribute to calls for more realistic views on BIM implementation.



BIM, activity theory, change management, sector transformation, BIM mandate

Journal Title

Construction Management and Economics

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Taylor & Francis


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