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PhD project within Circular Built Environment


Lin Kjerulf,
Industrial PhD


Enemærke & Petersen A/S
AAU Build
Copenhagen Business School


Valuation of sustainability in tendering from a contractor perspective

My research has shifted from initially examining the factors that both hamper and promote ‘circular tendering strategies in contractor firms’ to investigating how contractors make sense of sustainability in the tendering process. This change in focus stems from various factors, one being the realization that tendering projects to include ‘circularity requirements’ cannot easily be separated from other sustainability demands. Even if one were to attempt such separation, it is evident that ‘circularity requirements’ in tendering are at an early stage. Consequently, we must first comprehend the current sequence of sustainability priorities in tendering. Therefore, my research project aims to encompass ‘environmental’ sustainability requirements as a whole to better understand the path forward.

The tendering process contains a wide range of ‘persuasion inscriptions’, which help determine whether the client and the bidding team can find a common ground for action, namely, to join a unified project team to achieve the common task of ‘realizing the construction project’.

In my research project, I have identified three ‘persuasion inscriptions’ which I refer to as ‘devices for the translation of interests’. These devices act as mediators in aligning the priorities of both sides of the client-contractor relationship. The three devices are ‘DGNB’, ‘References’, and ‘Value Packages’. ‘DGNB’ has inevitably found its way into my empirical data due to its extensive use in the Danish construction industry. I explore how DGNB’s framework influences both a contractor’s tendering practices and clients act in tendering, and how contractors choose to react to and make sense of DGNB. ‘References’ are part of showcasing the bidder’s project history to get prequalified and, consequently, be eligible to bid on the project. The project examines how contractors continually work towards ‘having convincing references’ to bid in sustainability-related market segments and how references in the form of four prior projects account for sustainability initiatives. ‘Value Packages’ encompass the responses to qualitative requirements that are submitted by the tendering team alongside the bid price.

The focus is particularly on how a contractor’s tendering team ‘crafts’ narratives about sustainable construction. The analysis was built upon two ‘Value Package’ cases where sustainability requirements were a significant part of the clients’ award criteria.

Through my research, I aim to depict ‘what happens up close’ from the perspective of potential contractors when clients demand ‘sustainability initiatives’ in tendering. By gaining an improved understanding of how contractors specifically work, and produce value, from ‘sustainability requirements’, we can move closer to helping tendering documents better facilitate frameworks that favor the integration of sustainability solutions.