Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Improving the management of change requests in construction of large building projects in Saudi Arabia

Alsahly, Fahad Falah Madhy


Fahad Falah Madhy Alsahly


T. M. (Terry M.) Williams

Riccardo Mogre


One of the challenges faced by project managers is frequent change requests, which usually lead to changes in the scope of a project. Change has been said to be inevitable, and without change everything stagnates. However, ad hoc changes can be adverse, and in some instances cause whole projects to stagnate, or fail. Therefore, studies on the causes and effects of change requests are critical. The latest official reports about government projects in Saudi Arabia suggested that 62% experienced change in the contract, and one project had cancelled 80% of the items of the contract, which changed the project completely. The extent of this problem posed a need to study the cause of stalled projects in the Kingdom. Responding to these concerns, the aim of this research is to explore the conceptualization of change requests, and how they occur, the causes and effects of change requests and the current methods of handling change requests and how effective they are in large building projects in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Based on the exploration the research provides a comprehensive analysis of issues surrounding change requests- including cultural impacts- from the perspectives of multiple stakeholder groups, in a distinctive, under- researched context. This in turn leads to development of a conceptual framework for understanding change requests and diagnosing related problems.

A qualitative approach and case study strategy was applied to study this phenomenon and to explore whether and how culture affects change requests in Saudi Arabia. Data collection was conducted by two means: Secondary data were collected from documents reporting change requests (n= 6) and change orders (n= 7) in large construction companies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 40 stakeholders of four large government construction projects: 4 owner representatives, 15 consultants, 4 project managers and 17 department managers.

The findings revealed inconsistent and confused conceptualizations of change requests, and failure to distinguish between change requests and change orders. None of the projects had standardised, formally documented change request procedures, but relied on informal communications. A variety of causes for change requests, beyond those previously documented in the literature were identified, including internal causes arising from one or other of the project stakeholders, and external causes outside the stakeholders’ control. Direct effects included time and cost overruns, while potential (indirect) effects included lowered morale and productivity, and loss of reputation. However, there could also be positive effects, such as improved quality and client satisfaction. Change requests are currently handled ad hoc as they occur. The findings also revealed the impact of Saudi culture (notably power distance and uncertainty avoidance) on project management generally, and change requests specifically.

It is concluded that change request frequency could be reduced and harmful impacts minimized by engagement of all stakeholders in the project design stage, use of a standard contract such as FIDIC to clarify parties’ responsibilities and protect their rights, and use of formal documented change request procedures. However, for Saudi Arabia and other developing countries, which may be using non-standard contracts and ad hoc change request procedures, the framework proposal in this study can be used to aid consistency and clarity among stakeholders, diagnose bottlenecks and identify appropriate solutions to minimize change requests and mitigate harmful impacts on projects.


Alsahly, F. F. M. (2016). Improving the management of change requests in construction of large building projects in Saudi Arabia. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2018
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Aug 1, 2016


Thesis (4.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 Alsahly, Fahad Falah Madhy. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Downloadable Citations