Design error classification, causation, and prevention in construction engineering

Robert Lopez, Peter E.D. Love, David J. Edwards, Peter R. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Citations (Scopus)


Construction and engineering practitioners have found it increasingly difficult to learn from their mistakes, particularly with regard to the prevention, identification and/or containment of design errors. Yet, design errors have been the root cause of numerous catastrophic accidents that have resulted in the death and injury of workers and members of the public. This paper examines and classifies the nature of error and design error causation in construction and engineering projects. A review of the normative literature revealed that design errors are caused by an array of factors that can work interdependently. A generic framework is developed that classifies design error according to people, the organization, and project is presented. The paper suggests that people, over and above organizational and project management strategies, have the greatest propensity to reduce errors through the process of situated learning and knowing. This is because the working environment provided by an organization and the processes used to deliver construction and engineering projects influence the nature and ability of people to undertake tasks. Consequently, there is no single but rather a multitude of strategies that need to be adopted in congruence to reduce design errors so that safety and project performance are ameliorated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-408
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Performance of Constructed Facilities
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Causes
  • Classification
  • Design errors
  • Documentation
  • Learning
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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