Research Group Building Future Cities

This research group aims to contribute to the development of a new culture in the construction sector. It seeks to do this by encouraging sustainable cooperation and sustainable and environmentally aware forms of activity, as well as through the development of skills and professionalism.

Aims of this research group:

  • sustainability and socially responsible business practices
  • new business models and leadership
  • social innovation for improved labour productivity
  • better business performance

The construction sector has made major changes in recent years and faces more major challenges, especially given the current economic situation. New methods of working in the construction chain can help to ensure that the sector can withstand the challenges of the future. A new culture and new behaviours will be an integral part of this change.

The relationships between clients and contractors, and between primary contractors and subcontractors will be characterized less by contradictions and conflict and more by cooperation and a focus on jointly providing added value for clients, customers and end users. Society and the market require not only transparency and confidence (sustainable business practices), but also a customer-focused and environment-focused approach.

Research, education, professional field

Current trends and developments in the sector provide a good opportunity to achieve a cultural and behavioural shift. Areas such as cooperation in the chain, lean construction and building information modelling have been prominent over the last few years and all of these changes have a strong cultural component. The research group will make a contribution through its activities in research and teaching. Conversely, professional practice will also be drawn into the research group in order to give direction to its research work and to inspire its teaching.

Dr Ruben Vrijhoef: ‘Construction is about people, and thus it is about culture. A new culture in the construction chain will be brought about partly through a new generation of professionals in the construction sector. For this reason, the research group will bring together companies, researchers, lecturers and students to work closely together. An example of this is an integrated graduation research project conducted by students of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht at various construction companies, in collaboration with the Cultural Changes in the Construction Sector Research Group. Themes such as cooperation within the chain, the circular economy, knowledge management and ‘lean construction’ were examined at companies like Unica Installatietechniek, BAM Utiliteitsbouw and JHK Architects.

‘New Style’ Professionals

The direct beneficiaries of this research will not only be those working in professional practice, but also those working in education. Degree programmes will make use of our research findings and incorporate them into their educational activities. This will ultimately enable HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht to turn out skilled professionals who are experienced in cooperation in the construction sector.

‘New style’ construction calls for 'new style’ staff and managers. This requires a culture that makes it possible to achieve and maintain the necessary changes. A culture that encourages people to develop further during their career, not just while they are students.

Across the full breadth of the (educational) field of the Built Environment, the research group focuses on Innovation in Culture and Process in the Construction Chain. The research group contributes to the knowledge and educational development in order to train new professionals who will be equipped to promote a new culture in the professional context. To this end, research is being carried out in the fields of ​​project management, information management and culture and change management.


The Cultural Changes in the Construction Sector Research Group forms part of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht’s priority theme of sustainability in the built environment. The research group was initiated in 2007 by Dr Frens Pries. A great deal has been achieved in a period of four years, but the importance of the research group in terms of research, teaching and professional practice remains undiminished. This is being further reinforced by recent developments such as the economic and credit crisis, which will bring about fundamental changes in the sector.

The Cultural Changes in the Construction Sector Research Group is an initiative of the Foundation for Knowledge Transfer in Construction together with six universities of applied sciences: Avans University of Applied Sciences in Tilburg, Hogeschool van Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Hogeschool Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and Hogeschool Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.


Visiting address:
Padualaan 99
3584 CH Utrecht

Mailing address:
P.O. Box 182
3500 AD Utrecht

Phone: +31 88 481 81 55