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Meeting science: Future-proofing construction design team meetings (RDF23/ABE/PONTON)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Hazel Ponton, Dr Barry Gledson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Construction design coordination and collaboration are critical but challenging tasks to ensure the design meets the functional, aesthetic, and economic requirements of clients and end users. Construction design team meetings (CDTMs) are the formal venues supporting design coordination through interdisciplinary group interactions. Participants typically include the constructors, designers, and possibly clients. Meetings occur regularly and involve participants gathering in the same physical space (colocated). Although, since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual and hybrid meetings have also become commonplace. The functions of the meetings include monitoring design tasks, reflection on design issues, and subsequent decision-making.

Gathering together (colocating or, to a lesser degree, virtually) creates social interactions that can benefit the project team by fostering cohesion, which aids the social phenomena of psychological safety, commitment, and trust. These phenomena can further aid working collaboratively and enable effective conflict management, resulting in improved productivity and performance.

However, the current practice of gathering team members also presents challenges. Meetings need to be administered and led effectively to avoid participants feeling their time is wasted. Additionally, all the necessary experts must attend all the meetings and be included in the relevant discussions to allow effective discussions to take place. Equally, the use (or not) of 2D information and 3D models also needs to be managed.

A further issue is the physicality of the meeting space to suit the requirements of participants and the digital technologies used. The time spent travelling to and from a meeting and the meeting’s duration can also be problematic. A recent study estimated the cost of design coordination meetings at $8,000 - $23,000 per meeting due to the large number of project experts involved. These current practice challenges raise the question of whether significant savings in time, money and effort might be achieved while improving productivity and performance.

Since the pandemic, business needs have changed. Remote working has become popular in many sectors. Hybrid meetings offer opportunities when working with consultants based away from the project location. At first glance, the use of hybrid meetings appears advantageous, but complex issues arise relating to the social aspects of team working. In addition, this new way of working requires greater understanding to create future-proof operating frameworks.

This project aims to investigate how CDTMs can provide effective task and social coordination and collaboration by embracing digital technologies and innovation.

To address this, the candidate will be required to:

  • Review the literature about CDTMs, including the task, social, physicality, and technological challenges and opportunities.
  • Uncover industry practices, namely, Leading, Interacting, Managing Time, Engaging, and Relating*
  • Develop and validate a framework that represents CDTM best practices.

A mixed-method study is expected whereby data collected via an initial survey would be followed by richer, qualitative observations of live practice. An interdisciplinary supervision team from ABE and Psychology will allow for a deep dive into the research disciplines of Psychology, Organisational Behaviour, and Project Management. The project will lead to high-quality journal publications.

Please get in touch with [Email Address Removed] for more information.

* See Allan and Lehmann-Willenbrock (2022)

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Hazel Ponton. For informal queries, please contact Dr Hazel Ponton – [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Ponton, H., (2021) Social interactions in construction design team meetings (Doctoral dissertation, Northumbria University).
Ponton, H., Osborne, A., Thompson, N., and Greenwood, D. (2020) ‘The power of humour to unite and divide: a case study of design coordination meetings in construction’, Construction Management and Economics, 38(1), pp. 32–54.
The following paper cites Ponton et al. (2020) - Allan and Lehmann-Willenbrock, (2022) The key features of workplace meetings: Conceptualizing the why, how, and what of meetings at work Organisational Psychology Review Special Issue: Meeting Science 1-24
Gledson, B.J. (2021). Enhanced model of the innovation-decision process for modular-technological-process innovations in construction. Construction Innovation: Information, Process, Management. 1471-4175.

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