Research is regarded as a crucial activity within the department. The department aims to foster the production of high quality research, which is defined as being excellent in terms of the standard of methodology and analysis and relevant to the problems being encountered in the field of the built environment.

A further aim is to balance the research endeavour in terms of addressing both theoretical issues and applied problem solving. It is also important that research studies should draw from a broad source of influences and that knowledge from other disciplines should be integrated where relevant. Research allows us to offer relevant continuing education that upgrades the knowledge and skills of construction managers, property consultants and quantity surveyors in industry.

Through research, national and international collaborations are formed that enable us to learn and contribute to the development of the built environment, and to prepare our graduates to meet the challenges of globalisation.

Research Areas in the Department of Construction Economics & Management

  1. Teaching and Learning Spaces

    Workspace in the academic environment includes space for teaching, administration, research and socialising. It also includes areas for laboratories, libraries, technology centres and informal collaboration. Technology has fundamentally and irrevocably affected the way we work, learn, teach and communicate. Consequently, the spaces in which these functions occur have, or should have changed over time, giving each of these components “academic workspace” a unique history and trajectory.

  2. Community-Based Facilities Management

    The development of theory and policy towards the use of community-based facilities management in communities that are characterized by high levels of poverty and unemployment as a means to social upliftment, local economic development and urban regeneration. This is an embryonic concept in the field of FM and we seek to build on this concept via collaborative and joint research projects.

  3. Urban Facilities Management

    The development of an understanding of the relationship between the individual building and the wider urban precinct that it serves. This research seeks to understand the problems associated with the management of urban areas and how these facilities management actions can assist in the wider regeneration of neighbourhoods, communities, towns and cities.

  4. HIV/AIDS Management

    Determining the impact of, and response to, the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the construction industry. The labour-intensive nature of the industry, coupled with its use of migrant labour render the industry particularly susceptible to the impact of HIV/AIDS. There is the potential for collaborative research examining response interventions by construction firms – in the form of awareness, prevention and treatment programmes.

  5. Workplace Stress of Built Environment Professionals

    Workplace stress is a function of the demands of the job, the degree of control the employee has over his/her working environment, and the stress profile of the individual. The construction industry is recognized as a particularly stressful working environment, but little is known about the stress profiles of the different professional consultants and what aspects of their work are stressful. Even less is known about how they manage stress at work. There is considerable potential for collaborative research in this area.

  6. Corruption in the Construction Industry

    Of all sectors of the economy, the construction industry is particularly vulnerable to the scourge of corruption. Corruption impacts the construction industries of developing and developed countries alike. Initial research in South Africa indicates that the problem is widespread, often involving public sector officials. This collaborative project will examine the drivers of corruption in socio-economic terms.

  7. Teaching Methodologies in Construction Studies

    The purpose of the present study is to outline a pilot study and the variation in academic achievement in the undergraduate Measurement and Design Appraisal (MDA) courses. It is argued that a student centred teaching methodology will result in improved spatial perception and result in an improved understanding of the concepts inherent to MDA courses. This approach differs substantially from the traditional teaching methodology that has been used for the past decades and necessitated the development of new course material.

  8. Pathways to Contracting

    This study investigates the experiences of some large contractors with a view to outlining a typical road map to becoming a large contractor. Further, a qualitative analysis was undertaken of the contractors that have been upgraded on the CIDB register of contractors with a focus on the mechanisms (such as ownership profile, time scale taken to upgrade, financial capacity, competence, experience and typical business models adopted) that assisted their development and transformation and how the mechanisms were influential.

  9. Building Contractors’ Compliance to Building Regulations

    The research examines the level of compliance of building contractors to statutory regulations in Cape Town. The research investigates whether there is a relationship between the level of compliance with statutory regulations and the site manager/agent qualification/contractor grade of registration with the CIDB.

  10. Property Markets in Africa

    Over the past two years a number of dissertations were completed which considered the property market across the African continent and in particular the decision by South African Investors and Developers to enter this market.  Book chapters have been published on defining land markets in Africa and on particular property market case-studies such as Philippi in Cape Town. Furthermore, journal papers have been published and masters dissertations completed on how increased land values can be captured by the state to finance infrastructure and other public goods. Lastly, research has been published on the impact of retail centres on township areas.

  11. Social Housing Delivery in South Africa

    Research has been undertaken into the viability of developing affordable housing in South African inner cities and assessing the role of this type of housing in bringing private sector investment in this segment of the market.

  12. Exporting the Construction Services of South African Contractors

    The study examines the feasibility of exporting construction services of South African Contractors to new markets in Africa and whether there are distinctive operational variables (capacities and capabilities that will enable them to do this).

  13. Value Management (VM) Research

    This research is an ongoing theme that started by looking into the delivery of housing infrastructure, and the addition of a contract clause requiring its use in the delivery of education infrastructure. Current research is focused on the application of the FAST model, a tool used in VM. The FAST model can be used to solve project problems and can also graphically capture knowledge about the problem and its solution for communication to other people. The aim of the research is to improve knowledge management in the project environment. To date a study and pilot have been completed at a local architectural firm with positive results.

  14. Critical Success Factors (CSF)

    Research to identify and apply project Critical Success Factors (CSF) locally for specific project types has been conducted in the Petrochemicals industry. An initial study used the local Chevron refinery as a case and this work is currently being extended to the rest of the Refining assets in South Africa. In addition this research has investigated the software development project environment and the application of CSF tools for project quality assurance in development projects in Sub Sahara Africa.

  15. Project Risk Management

    Project risk management research is being conducted in conjunction with a UK base consultancy. This work is examining the linkages between ‘Sensemaking’ and risk management and encompasses the practices of High Reliability Organizations (HRO). The goals are to find a new approach to project risk in large infrastructure projects and to assess the suitability of practices found in the HRO environment for large project organizations.

  16. We plan to start identification of the points in a project life cycle where Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) can be applied. A model already exists for VM interventions and this explains where and what objectives an intervention would have. We believe it would be an expansion of the field to add a similar model that explains the role SSM can play within the project life cycle.

Research Units

UCT – Urban Real Estate Research Unit (URERU)

This is a new unit that has been approved by the UCT Council in June 2015 under the directorship of Associate Professor Francois Viruly and will be managed by an advisory board which includes academics and property professionals. The aim of the unit is to provide an inter-disciplinary platform that promotes the identification of issues and seeks solutions to Urban Real estate investment, Finance, Economics and management problems in Africa. It offers an opportunity to initiate a unique research alliance between UCT, Industry and society at large. It also provides an opportunity to further define and enhance the existing research thrusts of the department of Construction Economics & Management.

URERU will be driven by three broad thrusts:

  •  Urban Land Economics and Urban Management,
  •  Urban  Real Estate Investment and Finance,
  •  Urban Real  Estate Markets, Dynamics  and Trends.

URERU will promote academic research and disseminate research to the private sector.

We will be developing a research agenda for the period 2015-2020.

The intention of the unit is to raise further funding from a variety of sources. These are likely to include:

  • Private sector funding,
  • Public Sector funding,
  • Professional Bodies (RICS),
  • International bodies.


UCT – Sustainability Orientated Cyber Research Unit for the Built Environment (S⊕CUBE)

The UCT Sustainability Orientated Cyber research Unit for the Built Environment (S⊕CUBE) as a research group, was founded in 2019, and received formal accreditation as a research unit by UCT's University Research Committee (URC) in August 2022. The S⊕CUBE team comprises staff members from the Department of Construction Economics and Management, who under the leadership of Associate Professor Kathy Michell and co-founder, Dr Alireza Moghayedi (now with University of West England), seek to find integrated solutions to the modern problems associated with the technical, social, environmental and economic challenges of the built environment in Africa through the adoption of innovative knowledge and technologies. 

The research agenda of the S⊕CUBE seeks to enhance sustainability, inclusivity and resilience of built environment projects and sector by utilising innovative methods and cyber technologies.; determine the social, environmental and economic impacts of various innovative methods and cyber technologies on lifecycle of built environment projects and society; identify the most appropriate innovative methods and cyber technologies for African built environment projects based on the characteristics and context of the project and society; optimise the value capture within the African built environment sector for stakeholders and society through adopting sustainability-oriented cyber technologies; determine the potential solutions to address the existing challenges of digitisation and digitalisation of African built environment projects and sector; and articulate the nexus between sustainability/sustainable development and 4IR and technological innovation in African built environment projects and sectors.