Decision Support System (DSS) for Construction Project Risk Analysis and Evaluation via Evidential Reasoning (ER)

  • Abdul Maten Taroun

Student thesis: Phd


This research explores the theory and practice of risk assessment and project evaluationand proposes novel alternatives. Reviewing literature revealed a continuous endeavourfor better project risk modelling and analysis. A number of proposals for improving theprevailing Probability-Impact (P-I) risk model can be found in literature. Moreover,researchers have investigated the feasibility of different theories in analysing projectrisk. Furthermore, various decision support systems (DSSs) are available for aidingpractitioners in risk assessment and decision making. Unfortunately, they are sufferingfrom a low take-up. Instead, personal judgment and past experience are mainly used foranalysing risk and making decisions.In this research, a new risk model is proposed through extending the P-I risk model toinclude a third dimension: probability of impact materialisation. Such an extensionreflects the characteristics of a risk, its surrounding environment and the ability ofmitigating its impact. A new assessment methodology is devised. Dempster-ShaferTheory of Evidence (DST) is researched and presented as a novel alternative toProbability Theory (PT) and Fuzzy Sets Theory (FST) which dominate the literature ofproject risks analysis. A DST-based assessment methodology was developed forstructuring the personal experience and professional judgment of risk analysts andutilising them for risk analysis. Benefiting from the unique features of the EvidentialReasoning (ER) approach, the proposed methodology enables analysts to express theirevaluations in distributed forms, so that they can provide degrees of belief in apredefined set of assessment grades based on available information. This is a veryeffective way for tackling the problem of lack of information which is an inherentfeature of most projects during the tendering stage. It is the first time that such anapproach is ever used for handling construction risk assessment. Monetary equivalent isused as a common scale for measuring risk impact on various project success objectives,and the evidential reasoning (ER) algorithm is used as an assessment aggregation toolinstead of the simple averaging procedure which might not be appropriate in allsituations. A DST-based project evaluation framework was developed using projectrisks and benefits as evaluation attributes. Monetary equivalent was used also as acommon scale for measuring project risks and benefits and the ER algorithm as anaggregation tool.The viability of the proposed risk model, assessment methodology and projectevaluation framework was investigated through conducting interviews with constructionprofessionals and administering postal and online questionnaires. A decision supportsystem (DSS) was devised to facilitate the proposed approaches and to perform therequired calculations. The DSS was developed in light of the research findingsregarding the reasons of low take-up of the existing tools. Four validation case studieswere conducted. Senior managers in separate British construction companies tested thetool and found it useful, helpful and easy to use.It is concluded that the proposed risk model, risk assessment methodology and projectevaluation framework could be viable alternatives to the existing ones. Professionalexperience was modelled and utilised systematically for risk and benefit analysis. Thismay help closing the gap between theory and practice of risk analysis and decisionmaking in construction. The research findings recommend further exploration of thepotential applications of DST and ER in construction management domain.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJian-Bo Yang (Supervisor) & David Lowe (Supervisor)


  • Project Evaluation
  • Decision Making
  • Risk assessment
  • Construction
  • Evidential Reasoning
  • Dempster-Shafer Theory of Evidence
  • Project Management

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