Li, Yadi, Xiao Liu, & Yan Ning (2021, January). Disentangling the failure of benefits realization in public institutional building projects: A paradoxical understanding of formalization. Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering. (ePub in advance of print) (doi: 10.1080/13467581.2020.1869015) (Link: (Access:

Abstract: Benefits realization at the operation stage is a widely neglected aspect of sustainable development of construction projects. It is one of the ultimate purposes of initiating projects. However, public projects often perform poorly in realizing benefits after being delivered. The purpose of this study is to investigate why public institutional building projects could not realize benefits as expected. A two-pronged research design was applied. A semi-structured interview and archive analysis of three cases were initially undertaken to elicit practitioners’ perspectives on why institutional building projects fail in delivering target benefits. Q methodology was then applied, identifying barriers to benefits realization in institutional building projects. Four barriers to benefits realization are identified, which mainly stem from the formalization of public institutional building project management. These are rigid administrative systems, non-autonomous decision-making, strong accountability, and lack of benefits evaluation scheme. This study presents a paradoxical understanding of the role of formalization in ensuring project production and benefits realization of public institutional building projects. While formalization ensures accountability and transparency in the project delivery and production, it undermines the benefits realization after being delivered. Such short-term consideration of project production would impede the pursuit of long-run benefits as expected by sustainable development.

Xiao Liu <> is in the College of Defense Engineering, Army Engineering University of PLA, Nanjing, China.