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Blockchain in the built environment: analysing current applications and developing an emergent framework


Distributed ledger technology (DLT), commonly referred to as ‘blockchain’ and originally invented to create a peer- to-peer digital currency, is rapidly attracting interest in other sectors. The aim in this paper is (1) to investigate the applications of DLT within the built environment, and the challenges and opportunities facing its adoption; and (2) develop a multi-dimensional emergent framework for DLT adoption within the construction sector.

Key areas of DLT applications were found in: smart energy; smart cities and the sharing economy; smart government; smart homes; intelligent transport; Building Information Modelling (BIM) and construction management; and business models and organisational structures. The results showed a significant concentration of DLT research on the operation phase of assets. This is expected given the significant resources and lifespan associated with the operation phase of assets and their social, environmental and economic impact. However, more attention is required to address the current gap at the design and construction phases to ensure that these phases are not treated in isolation from the operational phase.

An emergent framework combining the political, social and technical dimensions was developed. The framework was overlaid with an extensive set of challenges and opportunities. The structured and inter-connected dimensions provided by the framework can be used by field researchers as a point of departure to investigate a range of research questions from political, social or technical perspectives.


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