American Society of Civil Engineers

Understanding and Mitigating Challenges on Global Projects: The Role of the Freelance Expatriate

by Ashwin Mahalingam, (Ph.D. Candidate, Civil and Env. Engrg. Department, Bldg. 550, Room 553H, 416 Escondido Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 E-mail: and Raymond E. Levitt, (Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Terman 294, MC 4020, Stanford CA 94305 E-mail:
Section: Managing Construction Professionals, pp. 1-11, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Construction Research Congress 2005: Broadening Perspectives
Abstract: Global construction projects that involve collaboration between participants from multiple countries result in unique challenges that are not faced on intra-national projects. In order to further investigate this phenomenon, we conducted detailed case studies on four, matched international construction projects—two in Taiwan and two in India. Through our study we found four key differences in institutionalized work practices that led to large challenges on projects. How were these institutional challenges mitigated? We found that a group of freelance professionals, hailing mainly from the UK but also from other parts of the British Commonwealth, acted as the mediators or catalysts in resolving these differences. In this paper we describe the types of problems that arose on the project and the nature of the expatriate freelance community. We also analyze some of the strategies adopted by its members, and the ways in which conflicts were solved.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Construction industry
International factors