Transaction-cost-based selection of appropriate general contractor-subcontractor relationship type

Hyun Soo Lee, Joonoh Seo, Moonseo Park, Han Guk Ryu, Soon Seok Kwon

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Relationships between general contractors and subcontractors are generally formed on a project-by-project basis. However, because of the competitive nature of the construction industry, this traditional arrangement can result in adversarial relationships between general contractors and subcontractors, which can jeopardize potential or ongoing collaborative construction plans. To avoid this problem, close, long-term relationships between general contractors and subcontractors, as in strategic partnerships, must be established. Unfortunately, forming and sustaining such relationships can be time-consuming and cost-intensive. Furthermore, this type of relationship does not necessarily enhance cooperation or work performance. For contractors to successfully establish effective partnerships with their subcontractors, they must select the appropriate relationship by considering the different characteristics of the subcontracted work involved. Based on transaction cost theory, the findings of this study show that transaction costs incurred by general contractors and subcontractors vary according to the type of relationship established. Therefore, for the purpose of comparing transaction costs incurred in both competitive and partnership relationships, transaction-cost-based profit models for both general contractors and subcontractors are developed, respectively, for each relationship type. As well, by applying different strategies to maximize profits in each relationship, and by simulating the parameters affecting the nature of the subcontracted work, the conditions and relationships under which general contractors' profits are optimized have been determined. Finally, based on simulation, practical guidelines for choosing the most appropriate relationship type are proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1232-1240
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Construction industry
  • Costs
  • Profits
  • Subcontracting
  • Theories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Transaction-cost-based selection of appropriate general contractor-subcontractor relationship type'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this