Identifying Critical Dispute Causes in the Construction Industry: A Cross-Regional Comparative Study between China and the UK

Jinpeng Wang, Shang Zhang, Ruoyu Jin, Peter Fenn, Dongwen Yu, Lilin Zhao

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Construction disputes have long been identified as epidemics in the construction industry worldwide, which has become a more serious problem due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous studies on the dispute causes have primarily focused on country- or region-specific contexts and hence the results cannot be generalized in solving this chronic problem in a broader construction project worldwide. This study aims to explore and evaluate the critical dispute causes in construction projects through a comparative study between China and the United Kingdom. A total of 33 common dispute causes were identified through a comprehensive literature review and further consolidated by pilot surveys in the two countries. An online questionnaire survey was administered among construction professionals in China and the United Kingdom, with 170 valid responses returned for data analysis. Principal component factor analysis, mean score ranking approach, quartile analysis, and Mann-Whitney U testing were employed to identify the most critical dispute causes. Similarities and differences were mapped between the two countries. It was found that the five most critical categories of dispute causes in the two territories are: delay-related problems, lack of communication, contractual problems, site conditions, and design problems. The importance of variation in quantities, breach of contract, misinterpretation of contractual terms and conditions, and poor contract management was perceived significantly differently by the respondents in China and the United Kingdom, whereas design defects and failure to make compensation for additional work were the most critical common dispute causes in both countries. The research provides important findings for both academics and practitioners to holistically understand the similarities and differences of dispute causes in China and the United Kingdom and aids in preventing disputes more effectively in the global construction industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4022072
JournalJournal of Management in Engineering
Issue number2
Early online date29 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • China
  • Comparative study
  • Construction project
  • Dispute causes
  • United Kingdom


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