Impact of COVID-19 on project performance in the UAE construction industry

Muhammad Sami Ur Rehman, Muhammad Tariq Shafiq, Muneeb Afzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the global economy and, thus, the global construction industry. This paper aims to study the impact of COVID-19 on construction project performance in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Design/methodology/approach: This study adopted a qualitative and exploratory approach to investigate the impact of COVID-19 and its policies on project performance in the UAE construction industry in critical areas of the project management body of knowledge (e.g. schedule, cost, resources and contracts). Semi-structured interview questions were asked from ten construction professional to obtain valuable insights into the pandemic’s effects on the UAE construction industry and the effectiveness of policies implemented to rectify the damage and identify the industry’s new normal. Findings: The findings indicate that the construction industry faced several challenges such as schedule delays, disrupted cashflows, delayed permits, approvals and inspections, travel restrictions, serious health and safety concerns, material and equipment shortages, among others which hindered the timely delivery of construction projects. It also indicates that efforts made by the government institutions and the construction industry of the UAE such as economic support programs, digitization of processes, fee and fine waivers, health facilities, among other statutory relaxations proved effective in supporting the construction industry against the adverse effects of the pandemic. Research limitations/implications: The research findings are limited to the literature review and ten semi-structured interviews seeking an expert’s opinion from industry professionals working in the UAE construction industry. The research team did not get access to project documents, contracts and project progress reports which may be required to validate the interview findings, and to perform an in-depth analysis quantifying the impact of COVID 19 on construction projects performance, which is a limitation of this research. Practical implications: The implication is that, owing to the imposed lockdowns and strict precautionary measures to curb the rapid spread of the pandemic, smooth execution of the construction project across the country was affected. The government institutions and stakeholders of the construction projects introduced and implemented various techniques and solutions which effectively handled the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction industry of the UAE. Originality/value: This study has identified the challenges faced by the construction industry of the UAE in the context of the management of project schedule, project cost, construction contracts, health and safety of construction employees and other related aspects of the construction projects. This study also identified the techniques and solutions adopted by various public and private institutions of the country and their implications on construction projects. Therefore, this study provides guidelines for policymakers and future research studies alike.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-266
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Engineering, Design and Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 3 2022


  • Built environment research
  • Construction management
  • Construction project management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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