Delay Causes Within the UAE Construction Industry


Delays are a common phenomenon in the United Arab Emirates construction industry. According to Potts (2008), a delay refers to a scenario where a project is behind schedule. Such delays may be experienced when completing a phase of a project or the entire project. When they occur, then the overall cost of the project may exceed the pre-planned estimates. When a project is completed past the originally scheduled date, it means that it will be subject to issues such as inflation and any other future costs that might not have been planned for in the beginning. Delays in completing a project also mean that the value that the building was supposed to give after a given period will not be available because the facility shall not be ready for use at the originally planned date. According to Knowles (2000), in the United Arab Emirates, delays are still considered normal phenomena both in the private and public sectors. What society fails to realise is that such delays are very costly and should be avoided at all costs. Delays may occur due to several reasons. It may be due to issues related to the client, contractor, consultant, or any other external forces beyond the control of the stakeholders involved in the construction process. Latham (1994) says that it is important for the contractors to work with other stakeholders to eliminate causes of delays in the construction process to eliminate unnecessary costs and maximise the value presented by such structures by completing them within the planned schedule. In this paper, the researcher seeks to develop a proposal that will be used to research the causes of delays within the United Arab Emirates construction industry.

Rationale for Research

Conducting research is a very costly and tedious process that involves going to the field, gathering relevant data, and conducting analysis to generate a conclusion that is backed by facts. The findings must always be as accurate as possible because such reports may be used in different contexts. It is for these reasons that it becomes necessary to clearly define the rationale for each research as a justification to undertake such a complex and costly process. The construction industry in the United Arab Emirates has experienced a massive boost over the recent past, especially in major cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, many clients have registered their dissatisfaction with issues of delays in completing their projects. As Lowsley and Linnett (2006) note, every time a project is completed behind the schedule, it brings about issues such as extra costs and delayed use of such facilities. This has a direct negative impact on the associated costs and value of the completed projects. Attempts have been made by the relevant stakeholders to eliminate such delays to ensure that clients are satisfied every time they invest in a given project. Studies in the past have revealed that most of the delays are caused by poor planning and execution of plans by the contractors. Other projects delay because of underfunding, while a few may be affected by external factors. The study seeks to investigate and determine the causes of these delays, the stakeholders responsible for these delays, and how they can be addressed. Through this study, the researcher seeks to find a way of identifying the responsible stakeholders who have specific roles in the fight against delays in the construction industry. The research also seeks to find ways through which these stakeholders can work as a unit to address challenges faced in the construction sector.

Research Aims and Objectives

According to Vogt (2007), it is important to define aims and objectives when developing a research proposal. This helps in defining the direction of the study. It helps the researcher to determine what needs to be achieved when the study comes to an end. The overall aim of this objective is to investigate the causes of delays within the United Arab Emirates construction industry and measures that can be taken to address the delays. The researcher seeks to achieve the objectives below.

  • To determine the actual causes of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry
  • To determine the stakeholders responsible for the delays in the construction industry
  • To determine ways in which these delays can be eliminated
  • To find strategies that can be used to bring together all the stakeholders in the fight against delays.

The researcher seeks to achieve the above objectives through a review of the relevant literature and analysis of the primary data that will be collected from a sample of the targeted population.

Research Questions and Hypotheses

According to Greene (2007), research questions play a critical role in defining the path to be taken when collecting data from the field. In many cases, it is possible to find situations where a researcher collects irrelevant information from the field because of a lack of proper guidance. When there is no such guidance, then it becomes difficult to find a way of identifying the data needed for the study and that which is irrelevant. Research questions help in addressing such problems. It helps in knowing the information that is expected from the field and those that do not mean much in the study. The following are the specific questions that will be used in this research.

  • What are the actual causes of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry?
  • Who are the stakeholders responsible for the delays in the construction industry?
  • What are some of how these delays can be eliminated?
  • Which are some of the strategies that can be used to bring together all the stakeholders in the fight against delays?

As seen in the above questions, the researcher has developed the research questions based on the research objectives set in the section above. The researcher has formulated the questions to directly respond to the research objectives. The questions will be of help when collecting both primary and secondary sources of data.

In this section, it is also necessary to develop research hypotheses. The hypotheses define what the researcher expects to prove when the data has been analysed. Just like the research questions, the hypotheses must be closely related to the research objectives. The following are the research hypotheses developed for this study.

  • H1o. The major cause of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry is not poor planning and execution of plans by the contractors
  • H1a. The major cause of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry is poor planning and execution of plans by the contractors
  • H2o. Identifying the stakeholders responsible for construction delays is not the most important step in addressing this problem
  • H2a. Identifying the stakeholders responsible for construction delays is the most important step in addressing this problem
  • H3o. Collaboration and close coordination among the stakeholders are not relevant ways in which these delays can be eliminated
  • H3a. Collaboration and close coordination among the stakeholders are very critical ways in which these delays can be eliminated
  • H4o. Close communication cannot help to bring together all the stakeholders in the fight against the delays
  • H4a. Close communication can help to bring together all the stakeholders in the fight against the delays

The researcher seeks to reject all the above null hypotheses by confirming their alternative hypotheses. This will be done by analysing the primary data that will be collected from the field.

Literature Review

The issue of delays in the construction industry within the United Arab Emirates has been a concern for a long time. This has attracted the attention of many scholars who have tried to investigate the causes of these delays to find a lasting solution. According to Haider and (Barnes, 2011), when investigating the causes of delays, it is important to start by identifying various types of delays. This makes it easy to identify specific stakeholders who are responsible for these delays, and what can be done to address them. In this review of literature, the researcher started by investigating the types of delays existing in the construction industry.

Types of Delays

According to Al-Kharashi and Skitmore (2009), delays can be classified into different types depending on the approach that one takes when analysing them. Al-Momani (2000) says that delays can be caused by natural disasters or man-made causes. Natural disasters that can cause delays in construction include earthquakes, cyclones, heavy downpours that hinder the construction process, flooding among other natural calamities. As Fallahnejad (2013) notes, these are phenomena that can never be predicted. It is almost impossible to know when such phenomena may occur. Planning for these natural occurrences at the construction stage is also not easy. The contractors, clients, consultants or government agencies may not have control over these eventualities. However, when they occur, they may have a major impact on a project, and the delay may be to a varying degree. For instance, when an earthquake strikes at a time when a building is almost in the final stage, there is a possibility that it may be destroyed completely. This means that the construction will either be cancelled or be started from scratch if the client has enough money to do so or in case it was insured against such eventualities. Whichever the case, the date of completion of such a project will be delayed. However, when the construction was just beginning, the delay may be insignificant.

Sometimes the delay may be caused by human activities away from the control of the contractor, clients, consultant, or government agencies. According to Chidambaram, Narayanan and Arazi (2012), one of the causes of project delays in many parts of the Middle East is insecurity. When there is political instability where different factions are fighting to gain control of a given city, region, or country, it becomes almost impossible to continue with a construction process. As Hughes (2013) says, when such instability strikes, it becomes almost impossible to continue with a given project. The roads become impassable, and the sites may be too risky for any meaningful activity. The contractor may be forced to suspend the project for a while to wait for normalcy to prevail. Some other delays may be caused by either of the dominant players who are responsible for a given part of the project. This will be looked at in the section below.

Causes of Delays

In the section above, the researcher looked at the types of delays in the construction industry in the United Arab Emirates. The types were identified broadly as natural or human-related causes. In this section, the researcher will focus majorly on human-related causes. Although natural causes of delays can also be mitigated, this study will majorly focus on human-related causes. It is when these human-related causes have been addressed that the natural causes can be handled appropriately.

Client-related delays

According to Al-Khalil and Al-Ghafly (1999), sometimes a project may be delayed because of client-related causes. This may occur due to several reasons. According to Faridi and El-Sayegh (2006), in many cases, a client may underestimate the amount of money needed to undertake a given project. Such a client may ignore the advice from professionals such as quantity surveyors about the actual cost of putting up a project. Some of them even ignore the need to involve quantity surveyors when starting such projects. They use their views to estimate the cost of the project. When the project is initiated, Mahdavinejad (2011) says that these clients realise that what they have set aside for the project is much less compared to what is needed. When this happens, these clients are forced to suspend their projects for a while to get more cash.

According to Sweis, Sweis, Abu and Shboul (2008), another common phenomenon that causes delays changes in designs when the project is underway. The client is the chief financier and owner of every given project. He has the final word when it comes to issues such as designs or any other related issues in the construction. The contractor has the moral and legal obligation to deliver a project that meets the demands of the clients. Allport (2011) says that sometimes the client may demand extra features or changes in the original designs. These demands require more time. The contractor may be forced to call in other experts to help in factoring in such desired changes in the construction as per the clients’ directive (Chan & Kumaraswamy 1997, p. p. 61). As long as they are willing to pay for the additional work and wait a little longer, then the contractor will have no otherwise but to deliver what is needed.

Delays in releasing the funds are another common cause of delay that Sommer (2010) says is a direct mistake of the clients. The delay in releasing the funds may be caused by several factors such as delay by the bank to process the checks, irregular income of the client, or any other reason that may make the needed cash not to be delivered by the client to the contractor in time. When such funds are needed to buy equipment, then the construction process may be forced to halt for a while till all the materials are delivered in time. Depending on the nature of the delay, the project may fail to be completed in time.

Contractor-related delays

According to Koushki, Al-Rashid and Kartam (2005), most of the delays in the construction industry in the United Arab Emirates are caused by contractors. One of the common causes of delays related to contractors is poor planning. This may be in various forms. A contractor may fail to plan for the human resource needed in the project. This means that at one stage, it may force the contractor to look for additional labour to undertake activities that were not catered for in the plan approved by the client. The extra labour comes at an extra cost and this will require the approval of the client. It means that the whole project may be affected when the approval is not given by the project owner. Sometimes it may be a lack of proper planning for the equipment needed in the construction process. According to Ren, Atout and Jones (2008), a contractor may fail to implement the plan because of personal greed. After developing an effective plan to get the approval of the client, the contractor may be tempted to make some changes to reduce the cost of the project as a way of increasing profitability. One of the common ways of doing this is to reduce the number of the workforce.

Sambasivan (2007) says that making changes in the original design to make an attractive profit margin may have other serious consequences other than the delayed date of project completion. For instance, a contractor may decide to use a design of a different building that had been completed to construct a new building as a way of eliminating the cost of hiring an architect. As Odeh and Battaineh (2002) observe, what such contractors fail to realise is that some designs are only appropriate for specific terrain. When the terrain is not fit for a design that has been copied, then such buildings may collapse even before their completion, causing further delays. In some cases, a contractor may make changes in the materials used in construction. Such materials may cause delays when the building collapses due to an imbalance of weight and its structural components (Mezher T & Tawil 1998, p. 255). It is, therefore, very important that the materials that were approved by the professionals are used in their correct proportions to ensure that such eventualities are avoided.

Consultant-related delays

Sometimes causes of delays may be related to the consultants who are hired to undertake various parts of the project. The delay may be caused by the inability of the architect to deliver the design of the house in time as per the agreed schedule (Assaf & Al-Hejji 2006, p. 352). The problem may be caused by the engineer assigned various tasks within the project or the quantity surveyor. Sometimes it may be the authorities assigned the task of seeking approval from various bodies such as governmental bodies or environmental agencies. When these consultants fail to complete their assignments in time, then the project may take longer than originally planned.

External factors-related delays

According to Damian and Bruce (2013), several external factors may be attributed to the delays in the projects. One of the common causes of delays in this category is a change in government policies. From time to time, the national government of UAE reviews laws concerning construction to put into consideration the increasing population and changes in the environmental factors. Sometimes a project may be stalled for a while when the government is in the process of reviewing the laws and policies regarding the construction of different structures. It may not be easy to manage such unpredictable circumstances. Natural calamities may have an adverse effect on a given construction project. Cyclones are becoming very common in various parts of the world (Justin & Marc 2004, p. 76). Parts of Asia have been the latest casualties of strong cyclones in the recent past. Although they have not been common in the United Arab Emirates, their occurrences may have a devastating impact as has been witnessed in other parts of the world.

Effect of Construction Delays

According to Diab and Sharma (2012), construction delays have numerous undesirable effects which majorly affect the client. The effect can be analysed from two perspectives. The two perspectives are the associated cost of the delay, and the lost value of the structure between the time it was supposed to be completed to the actual time upon which it was completed and put into use.

Associated costs

Construction delays are always a costly affair if care is not taken to manage such overheads (Justin & Marc 2004, p. 78). When a project is postponed for various reasons, whether justifiable or not, the client may be forced to pay for the cost of the materials and labour at that later date. This means that the cost of inflation will have to be paid for by the client. In some instances, the client may be forced to redo some processes. For instance, if the government authorities and environmental agencies approved a project and it installs for several months or even years, the client may be forced to seek new approval, especially if these agencies have changed their policies to be observed when undertaking a construction project. This means that the client will be forced to incur additional costs.

Lost value

According to Diab and Sharma (2012), when a building is not completed as per the initially agreed deadline, the client may lose the value that would have been generated between the scheduled time of completion and the actual time when the project was completed. For instance, when a client is putting up a rental house that is expected to generate $ 15,500 per month, then this amount of money will be lost every month the project is completed behind the schedule. If the project is late by four months, then the client shall lose $6200 and if it is late by one year, the amount of money that will be lost is $ 186,000.

Cases to be analysed

The researcher will look at some of the specific cases of construction delays within the United Arab Emirates. Burj Khalifa, the world tallest building, is one of the mega projects that will be analysed in this study. The project is completed, but it experienced delays with investigating in this study. The Dubai Marina is another mega project that will be analysed in this study. The project is considered unique in its architectural design. It is the world’s largest marina to be created by man. The third case will be the Dubai International City, a project worth US$ 95 billion. The project has been completed. These three cases will help explain the causes and impact of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry.

Factors affecting the UAE construction industry

It is important to understand some of the factors unique to the construction industry in the United Arab Emirates. According to Sambasivan (2007), one factor that makes the construction in this country unique is that government is one of the major clients in some of the mega construction projects. The government is investing a lot in the housing and transport sectors, making it the major client in the construction industry. Another unique factor about this industry is that organisational clients make the bulk of the clients. Other than the government, many other firms are operating in the real estate market. These organisational clients do not have financial problems as may be the case when dealing with individual clients. It is, therefore, strange that delays in these projects are common even when the funds are readily available. This makes it necessary to research to find out why delays are common in various projects.

According to Fallahnejad (2013), another striking factor that affects the construction industry in EAU is the fact that the training of the labour has been neglected. Most of the people working in this sector are casual labourers without any formal training. This has forced contractors to hire experts from other countries such as China to work in this sector. The hiring of foreigners increases the cost of construction. It also increases uncertainties in the construction industry.


In this section, the researcher defines the proposed methods that will be used in collecting and analysing data. The researcher seeks to investigate the causes of delay within the United Arab Emirates construction industry. To do this, the researcher will rely on two sources of data. The first source of data will be from literature. The researcher will collect information about this topic from scholarly sources. These include books, journal articles, and other reliable online sources. These sources will be reviewed in chapter two of the dissertation in order to offer the research background. The research will also use case studies of incidents where a delay occurred in a given construction project. After reviewing the literature, the researcher will collect primary data from the respondents. According to Kent (2007), primary data helps in affirming or sometimes challenging the findings from the literature reviews. Analysis of the primary data will help in confirming theoretical concepts in this field of study (Guest, 2013).

Sampling techniques

Sampling is very important when conducting research (Wamia, 2005). In the United Arab Emirates construction industry, several people can participate in this research. The researcher has three main categories of people to be interviewed. The first category includes the contractors who have engaged in various construction processes in this country. They were considered important because they can help in explaining factors that sometimes make them complete various projects behind schedule. The second category had the clients who have experienced delays in the completion of their projects in the recent past. These respondents will not only explain the causes of delays in the construction but also the impact of such occurrences. In the last category were the government officials in the relevant ministry. They will help explain reasons why it is necessary to change laws and regulations governing the construction sector in this country. They will also explain how such regular changes affect the construction industry. To collect data from these three strata, stratified sampling will be used. This sampling strategy will ensure that each of the three categories of respondents is adequately considered in this research. After identifying the number of participants in each stratum, simple random sampling will be used to select the individual participants who will participate in the study.

Data collection

Data will be collected from primary and secondary sources. Collection of secondary data will be done through the review of the literature. The works of literature will be reviewed in chapter two of the dissertation. The primary data will be collected from the sampled population of contractors, clients, and government officials. Data will be collected through the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire will focus on collecting all the recent information from the respondents about the causes of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry. The research will also rely on a case study. It will help the researcher during the survey to collect data. The information gathered from the survey with the help of questionnaires will be compiled for analysis.

Scope of data collection

This research focused on the causes of construction delays within the United Arab Emirates construction industry. Given the limited time available for the study, the researcher limited the scope of data collection to the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These are the major areas where serious construction has been taking place over the past decades. The case study will be taken from either of the cities (Vogt 2007, p. 87).

Data analysis

Analysing the collected data will be done quantitatively. The researcher is interested in determining the leading causes of delays in the United Arab Emirates construction industry. To do this, it is necessary to find a way of determining the numerical strength of each factor that is identified as a major cause of delay. Using mathematical tools, it will be easy to identify the modal factor. Quantifying the response will help in identifying the highly recurring factors as stated by the participants. Structured questions will help in facilitating quantitative data analysis. Since the research will be majorly based on quantitative methods, the researcher will also need some descriptive statistics to explain specific issues related to the delays in construction projects within the country. This means that unstructured questions will also be used in the study.

Case Study

The research will use case studies in order to give a clear picture of the causes of the delays, how they occur, and their impact on the clients, contractors, consultants, or any other concerned stakeholder. The researcher has identified three main case studies that will be used in this project.

Timeline for the Project

This project is expected to take about one month. It will start on the first of June, 2015 and end on 29 of the same month. The table below identifies specific activities that will be carried out in this project.

1st– 20thJune 2015 21stJun- 16thJul
17thJul- 12thAug 2015 13thAug- 30thAug 2015 1st– 20thSep 2015
Collecting of secondary data
Review Literature
Data Collection Process
Analysis of the Data
Writing of the Report

The Gantt chart above shows the specific activities that should be carried out in this project from the first to the 29th of June this year.


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