Blockchain and smart contracts in the Swedish construction industry

University essay from KTH/Fastigheter och byggande; KTH/Fastigheter och byggande

Abstract: Blockchain technology with its distributed ledgers attracts massive attention today and creates interest in many different industries. One of the most promising areas for implementation of blockchain technology is its use to create fully automated and decentralized contract solutions, so-called smart contracts. The blockchain technology is also expected to develop the concept of BIM by facilitating the creation of a common model. The problem addressed in this study is the limited amount of research carried out in the blockchain field and the potential use of smart contracts in procurement of services in the construction industry.  The construction industry differs from many other industries as it is project-based with changing circumstances and conditions. The study shows that the construction industry is an industry focused on discussions and disputes, the majority of which are linked to payments and contractual interpretations. Two of the key concepts of the study are therefore moral hazard and opportunistic behavior. Opportunistic behavior can affect norms, the willingness for cooperation and the degree to which parties trust each other. Designing contracts to reduce the risk of moral hazard and opportunistic behavior is therefore an important aspect. The study has chosen to study both relationships that are hierarchical to nature but also peer-to-peer.  The purpose of the study has been to conceptually reflect on percived opportunities and challenges with blockchains in the construction industry regarding two identified applications, smart contracts and BIM. To investigate this, a qualitative interview study has been conducted. The study points to the need for a more standardized building process that is subject to a certain degree of repetition to achieve successful use of a blockchain network and smart contracts. The study also shows that there is a positive attitude from the respondents regarding a possible development for several of the potential applications of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology and smart contracts have the potential to improve the reliability and credibility of logbooks, self-checks and work performed within a building project. Furthermore, the study highlights the importance of long-term relationships and confidence in reducing opportunistic behavior. Based on previous research and empirical analysis, the study contributes to an increased understanding of which levels in the construction industry smart contracts may be applicable. The study shows that smart contracts are not perceived suitable for complex contracts where the work to be performed can be changed many times during the contract period. The study, on the other hand, indicates that blockchain development with BIM is not demanded at the present time. Finally, the study points out that blockchain technology is perceived to have the potential to make the building process more transparent and open with reduced power conditions at the same time as it gets less centralized which opens up the need for research in that direction.

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