Project Validation: A Set-Based and Concurrent Design Approach to Inform Owner's Authorization Decision on Complex Projects

David Grau, Fernanda Cruz Rios, Rachael Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strictly speaking, there is no way to have certainty of the outcomes or the value of decisions made early in a project. However, early decisions set the path to cost and schedule performance and influence life cycle costs. This study explored project validation as a novel set-based and concurrent design practice during the conceptual phase of complex projects. Because the construction literature obviates set-based design, a grounded theory method was leveraged to elicit a theoretical model that gave primacy to contextual and inductive evidence. The emerging theory guided the data collection, which included interviews, three expert workshops, and observations at validation sessions. Project validation aims at proving or disproving with null design whether the team can deliver a project that satisfies the owner's business case and scope within the owner's allowable constraints of costs, schedule, and acceptable risks. Also, it defines the basis of design and target costs and informs the owner's decision to authorize (go) or not to authorize (no-go) the project. As a departure from the existing literature rooted in point-based design and programming approaches, decisions on concurrent sets of cross-functional design alternatives are purposely delayed during project validation. In doing so, the accumulation of additional information will, later on, enable the team to make design decisions with a systems engineering and value-adding perspective that drives innovation. The results of this study contribute to the advancement of design theory methodology and project definition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04021132
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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