Construction Dissertation Topics

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Example construction dissertation topic 1:

Infrastructural civic engineering construction projects within the UK: Time for legislative change?

The process of planning, commissioning and completing major infrastructural civil engineering construction projects within the UK is a lengthy process. Hampered by Nimbyism and the need for individual planning consents, this paper argues that a slim-lined process of facilitation is needed for projects such as the HS2 link or the proposed fourth crossing at Dartford. In so doing this paper further argues that the infrastructural and societal benefits of such construction projects far outweigh the negatives and that accordingly the views and needs of the majority should, in such cases of construction, outweigh the criticism of the few. Accordingly, it is proposed that for infrastructural developments in excess of £20 billion (the HS2 is estimated at £32bn) usual planning regulations should not apply and that rather central government should be empowered, by statute, to declare that such developments will be constructed along the path that the supreme legislative power of the UK dictates.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Devine-Wright, P. (2011). 'Public engagement with large-scale renewable energy technologies: Breaking the cycle of NIMBYism', Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Vol. 2, pp. 19-26.
  • Marshall, T. (2011). 'Reforming the process for infrastructure planning in the UK/England 1990-2010', Town Planning Review, Vol. 82(4), pp. 441-467.
  • Vickerman, R. (2007). 'Cost-benefit analysis and large-scale infrastructure projects: State of the art and challenges', Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol. 34(4), pp. 598-610.

Example construction dissertation topic 2:

Reinvigorating the housing market through compulsory green construction

Government-backed schemes relating to the insulation of loft space and cavity walls have been hugely successful. Building upon such green initiatives and in order to act as a fillip to the construction industry, this paper outlines a case for making it compulsory that the construction of new homes within England and Wales must include solar panels covering at least three quarters of available roof space. This paper addresses three primary issues within its hypothesis. First, such a development would empower the construction industry and help it through this recessionary period. Secondly, the knock-on effect of lowering the price of solar panels (due to supply and demand) would result in a further boost for the construction industry as existing householders sought to benefit from solar energy. Thirdly, the compulsory construction of housing with solar panels would enable the UK construction to more than exceed its environmental targets by 2020.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Banfill, P.F.G. and Peacock, A.D. (2007). 'Energy-efficient new housing - the UK reaches for sustainability', Building Research and Information, Vol. 35(4), pp. 426-436.
  • Fthenakis, V., Mason, J.E. and Zweibel, K. (2009). 'The technical, geographical, and economic feasibility for solar energy to supply the energy needs of the US', Energy Policy, Vol. 37(2), pp. 387-389.
  • Mendonça, M. (2011). 'The UK feed-in tariff: A user survey', Working Paper, Birkbeck Institute of Environment. London: Birkbeck University.

Example construction dissertation topic 3:

Addressing the domestic skills shortage within the UK construction industry.

Faced with a domestic skill shortage, particularly within traditional trades such as stonemasonry and thatching, the UK construction industry has, over the last decade, been increasingly reliant upon foreign migrant workers to fill other, more generalised construction jobs. This paper addresses this issue within the context of the present changes to the aged fourteen to nineteen education curriculum and the government's intention that within two years all sixteen to eighteen year olds will be engaged in either full time education or training. In so doing it first notes how practical skills-based subjects have been educationally side-lined since the demise of the secondary modern and thereafter argues that the introduction of construction skills as a compulsory stand-alone qualification within the secondary curriculum would not only ameliorate shortages but also reinvigorate respect for traditional modes of work.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chan, P.W. and Dainty, A.J.R. (2007). 'Resolving the UK construction skills crisis: A critical perspective on the research and policy agenda', Construction Management and Economics, Vol. 25(4), pp. 375-386.
  • Chan, P.W., Clarke, L. and Dainty, A.J.R. (2010). The dynamics of migrant employment in construction: Can supply of skilled labour ever match demand? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Clarke, L., McGuire, C. and Wall, C. (2012). 'The development of building labour in Britain in the twentieth century: Is it distinct from elsewhere in Europe?'. In, Dainty, A.J.R. and Loosemore, M., Human resource management in construction: Critical perspectives. London: Routledge.

Example construction dissertation topic 4:

Perceptions of modular housing construction: A UK survey

Despite the success of construction techniques such as those employed by Huf-Haus in Germany, modular pre-constructed house building in the United Kingdom remains little used. Given the advantages relating to cost and on-site construction time that such modularisation can bring, this paper seeks to assess the reasons for its lack of use within the UK construction industry. Using interviews, this paper combines the views of builders and house buyers with existing secondary data relating to the use of such advanced construction techniques.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Barnard, D. (2010). Light steel construction and modular homes as alternative building methods in South Africa. BSc thesis, University of Pretoria.
  • Goodier, C.I and Pan, W. (2012). 'Briefing: future trends in UK housebuilding', Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Municipal Engineer, Vol. 165 (2), pp. 65-67.
  • Nahmens, I. and Ikuma, L. (2012). 'Effects of lean construction on sustainability of modular homebuilding', Journal of Architectural Engineering, Vol. 18(2), pp. 155-163.

Example construction dissertation topic 5:

A record of which to be proud - safe-work man hours and the road building industry: A comparative study.

With due justification and pride the construction firms employed to rebuild the A1 between Wetherby and Leeming Bar (and in so doing upgrading the road from a dual carriageway to motorway status) announced, at the end of the construction project that some 3 million safe-work man hours had been achieved. This dissertation comprises three distinct parts in a sector that has received relatively little academic attention. First it charts the rise and improvement in health and safety in road-building projects from 1970-2012 within the United Kingdom. Secondly, it compares the UK's growing safety record with that enjoyed in France. Thirdly, it offers, through a study of the best practices employed on the both sides of the channel, a series of proposals through which safe-man hours could be even more enhanced. This is a construction-based dissertation that would particularly suit a candidate interested in working within the Health and Safety sector that is attached and integral to the safe working environment of the industry.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chan, E. (2011). 'Total safety culture by behavior-based safety approach', Proceedings of the International Symposium on Information Technologies in Safety Management of Large Scale Infrastructure Projects, Wuhan, China: Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
  • Knox, H. and Harvey, P. (2011). 'Anticipating harm: Regulation and irregularity on a road construction project in the Peruvian Andes', Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 28(6), pp. 142-163.
  • Lingard, H., Cooke, T. and Blismas, H. (2011). 'Coworkers' response to occupational health and safety: An overlooked dimension of group-level safety climate in the construction industry?', Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 18(2), pp.159 - 175.

Example construction dissertation topic 6:

Reinvigorating regional construction techniques: A call for more diversity.

Though housing developers such as Persimmon, who purchased Kentish vernacular construction firm, Hillreed homes, in October 2012, can be applauded for their use of local vernacular styles in their executive housing developments nationwide, the same cannot always be said of mid-price range properties. This paper, in advancing the cause of diversity, argues that a greater use of locally sourced products should be used in house construction so as to reflect the historic building and construction styles of different parts of the county. Thus, this dissertation investigates both the cost effects and customers perceptions of a return to using vernacular design and construction in Cornwall and Kent. It includes, for example, the use of traditional lime mortar, as opposed to more environmentally insensitive concrete, as the preferred construction material.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Boyd, D. and Danks, S. (2000). 'An analysis of 'the architectural practice' in the construction industry', Association of Researchers in Construction Management, Vol. 2, 693-702.
  • Forsyth, A. and Crewe, K. (2009). 'New visions for suburbia: Reassessing aesthetics and place-making in modernism, imageability and new urbanism', Journal of Urban Design, Vol. 14(4), pp. 415-438.
  • Ventolá, L., Vendrell, M., Giraldez, P. and Merino, L. (2011). 'Traditional organic additives improve lime mortars: New old materials for restoration and building natural stone fabrics', Construction and Building Materials, Vol. 25(8), pp. 3313-3318.

Example construction dissertation topic 7:

Flammability of textile waste when used as insulation in residential properties

Approximately two million tons of textile waste is produced in the UK each year (Defra, 2010), and more than half of that amount is sent to landfill. Proposals have been to utilise this waste in a number of ways, including as thermal building insulation (Briga-Sa et al., 2013), and acoustic insulation. However, insufficient research has been done to determine the flammability of such insulation products, and the effects of combustion on domestic installations. This thesis undertakes testing of a variety of textile wastes, both independently and in conjunction with common building materials, to determine both the flammability and the possibility of toxic by-products.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Briga-Sa, A., Nascimento, D., Texeira, N., Pinto, J., Caldeira, F., Varum, H. and Paiva, A. (2013). 'Textile waste as an alternative thermal insulation building material solution', Construction and Building Materials, Vol. 38, pp. 155-160.
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (2010). Sustainable clothing action plan. London: HMSO.
  • Lou, C.W., Lin, J.H. and Su, K.H. (2005). 'Recycling polyester and polypropylene nonwoven selvages to produce functional sound absorption composites', Textile Research Journal, Vol. 75(5), pp. 390-394.

Example construction dissertation topic 8:

Enhanced profitability strategies for small- to medium-sized construction firms in Scotland

This dissertation explores the opportunities available for construction firms in Scotland with fewer than 200 employees. It investigates the challenges for companies of this size with regard to incoming legislation and guidelines, the current economic climate, restrictions as a result of the natural environment (for example, weather), enterprise and training opportunities, innovative building materials, and market volatility. Using quantitative and qualitative research, this dissertation addresses these various streams through an holistic approach and develops a series of strategies to cope with these challenges. Finally, the paper proffers recommendations for companies operating within this field.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Barrett, P. and Sexton, M. (2006). 'Innovation in small, project-based construction firms', British Journal of Management, Vol. 17, pp. 331-346.
  • Scottish Building Federation (2012). Scottish construction monitor, Q2/2012. Edinburgh: Scottish Building Federation.
  • SQW (2012). Baselining and research into the construction sector in Scotland: Final report to Scottish Enterprise. Glasgow: SQW.

Example construction dissertation topic 9:

An evaluation of zero carbon targets for privately held housing stock built prior to 1919

Of the 15 million owner-occupied dwellings in England in 2008, 21% were constructed before 1919 (DCLG, 2010) The UK government's plan for '100% zero carbon by 2016' for new housing has indeed highlighted the focus of successive governments on the improvement of energy efficiency in new build residential applications. Insufficient attention has been paid, however, to the improvement of energy efficiency in dwellings of more than 100 years old, held as private housing stock. This dissertation examines the means by which such stock may address zero carbon targets from a variety of construction-related perspectives, including affordability, and makes recommendations for future zero carbon projects.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Department of Communities and Local Government (2008). English housing survey 2008. London: HMSO.
  • Power, A. (2008). 'Does demolition or refurbishment of old and inefficient homes help to increase our environmental, social and economic viability?', Energy Policy, Vol. 36(12), pp. 4487-4501.
  • Xing, Y., Hewitt, N. and Griffiths, P. (2011). 'Zero carbon buildings refurbishment: A hierarchical pathway', Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 15(6), pp. 3229-3236.

Example construction dissertation topic 10:

Thermal storage options for new dwellings achieving 100% zero carbon targets through the use of fully sealed envelopes.

Fully sealing the building envelope to eliminate waste heat and thus to maximise energy efficiency is a common technique in new houses built to meet the UK government's '100% zero carbon by 2016' targets. However, this results in an increased need to provide cooling options, particularly in the warmer southern regions of the UK. This dissertation explores thermal storage and cooling strategies for construction, with a particular emphasis on solar cooling. Such cooling can be achieved by photovoltaic-based electrical cooling systems and thermal collection. The project tests several installations in Cornwall and determines the optimal format for such installations, and makes recommendations for future applications of this technology.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chidambaram, L.A., Ramana, A.S., Kamaraj, G. and Velraj, A. (2011). 'Review of solar cooling methods and thermal storage options', Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 15(6), pp. 3220-3228.
  • Lowe, R. (2007). 'Technical options and strategies for decarbonizing UK housing', Building Research & Information, Vol. 35(4), pp. 412-425.
  • Syed, A., Izquierdo, M., Rodriguez, P., Maidment, G., Missenden, J., Lecuona, A. and Tozer, R. (2005). 'A novel experimental investigation of a solar cooling system in Madrid', International Journal of Refrigeration, Vol. 28(6), pp. 859-871.

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