There is a broad consensus among social and economic researchers that ‘institutions’ matter. Institutions influence beliefs, norms and actions; thus they shape performance and outcomes. Interestingly, the concept of institutions is not well established in construction economics or management research, specifically in waste-related literature. This paper presents discussions on the impact of imperfect regulations, norms and cultural/cognitive assumptions that exist within the construction procurement context, and how this has translated into the institutionalisation of wasteful behaviours and practices in construction projects. Based on a critical review of extant literature, the ultimate objectives of this study are to: (1) contribute to the overall understanding of waste in construction by suggesting a novel perspective to the generation and persistence of waste in construction projects; (2) demonstrate how the neo-institutional theory, a branch of organizational sociology, can potentially be applied as an analytical lens to deliver a more explicit theory of waste that relates cause and effect within the wider aspects of construction procurement systems and relationships; (3) highlight a number of widely accepted regulations, norms and meanings that impede efficiency and improvement efforts in construction; and (4) formulate propositions on institutional waste in the process of construction procurement that will be fundamental to the future trajectory of this study.
Keywords: Waste, Institutional theory, Lean Construction, Construction Procurement, Organisational Studies