Barriers impeding sustainable project management: A Social Network Analysis of the Iranian construction sector

Ali Fathalizadeh, M. Reza Hosseini, A. J.Gilbert Silvius, Ali Rahimian, Igor Martek, David John Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Making project management practices sustainable is an essential component to the broader mission of making the construction industry, as a whole, truly sustainable. In pursuit of this objective, numerous studies have collectively identified a plethora of barriers inhibiting construction project management sustainable transition. While such knowledge is instructive, it presents its own barrier as prevailing challenges cannot be tackled simultaneously and redressing barriers individually (and in isolation) has proven ineffective. This research therefore seeks to examine the interrelationship and dependency of these barriers, doing so in the context of the Iranian construction industry, and by using statistical means to identify underlying meta-barrier factors. Extracted from the extant literature, thirty initial barriers are defined and delineated to inform a survey data collection instrument delivered to Iranian industry experts. Of 454 questionnaires distributed to construction professionals, 176 valid responses were returned and Social Network Analysis (SNA) tools were adopted to analyse the data. Five core thematic clusters of barriers were observed to impede the industry's project management sustainability transition, namely: 1) project context; 2) knowledge; 3) investment; 4) community; and 5) strategy. Based upon these five meta clusters of barriers, future industry and government policies could set frameworks for moving towards sustainability and identify the root causes of the failure in their projects' sustainable practices. The research concludes by delineating future direction for further research investigation. This study contributes to the field through analysing the linkages between barriers and distils them into five broad problem sets. This method provides a more manageable approach and offers industry practitioners in Iran holistic insight on how to effect positive change towards sustainable project management practices, and in turn, a sustainable construction industry. In so doing, the study provides lessons for other developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128405
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Correlation network analysis
  • Developing country
  • Green project management
  • Green projects
  • Project delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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