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Applications of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and Blockchain-enabled smart contracts in construction

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mohamad Kassem


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© 2021. The contribution of distributed ledger technology (DLT) (e.g. blockchain) and smart contracts to the digitalisation and digital transformation of the construction sector is nascent but rapidly gaining traction. ‘Systematic reviews’ of DLT and smart contract applications that are specific to the construction sector are missing. This paper performs an extensive systematic review of 153 DLT and smart contract papers specific to the design, construction and operation of built assets. The protocols and processes of a systematic review were adopted to ensure full transparency, accountability, reproducibility, and updateability of the results. Through thematic analysis, we identify eight distinct themes of applications for DLT and smart contracts in construction: information management, payments, procurement, supply chain management, regulations and compliance, construction management and delivery, dispute resolution, and technological systems. Each theme identified was analysed to understand current capabilities, applications, and future developments. A cross-themes discussion revealed that DLT and smart contracts are ‘supplementary’ technologies that are used in combination with other technologies (e.g. BIM, IoT, cloud computing) as part of ‘technological systems’ that need to co-evolve in order to enable the themes' applications identified. Research into DLT and smart contracts in construction is rapidly moving from theoretical insights and frameworks into developing proofs-of-concept studies (27 studies) and testing them in case studies (20 studies). The next stage of research involving wider academic communities and industry-wide engagement is expected to begin uncovering the anticipated benefits of DLT and smart contracts through investments into technological systems and testing in real-world pilot studies. The discussion of the themes identified from technology, policy, process, and society perspectives exposed the need for an extended socio-technical approach to the solution in order to deliver the necessary change and impact from the adoption of DLT and smart contracts at speed and scale. The results of this systematic review provide a noteworthy reference point for academics, practitioners and policy makers interested in the future development of DLT and smart contract applications in construction.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li J, Kassem M

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Automation in Construction

Year: 2021

Volume: 132

Print publication date: 01/12/2021

Online publication date: 16/09/2021

Acceptance date: 07/09/2021

ISSN (print): 0926-5805

ISSN (electronic): 1872-7891

Publisher: Elsevier B.V.


DOI: 10.1016/j.autcon.2021.103955