Buffers in the form of extra capacity, time, or inventory can help stabilizing construction workflow. From a lean construction perspective, however, buffers are recognized as waste. It presents a dichotomy in the use of buffers that calls for the establishment of a balance between the theoretical goals and the practical norms. This paper presents a study on the practical norms of buffer management in construction projects in New Zealand. Twelve semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with the construction planning and management experts across the country. Thematic analysis of the responses indicated nine conceptual themes related to managing buffers in construction projects. The indicated themes give an overall picture of the prevailing features of ongoing buffer management processes in the industry. The results of the study pave the road for designing the next development steps to accommodate shifting from the standard buffer management practices to the lean ideal.
Lean construction, buffer management, prevailing features, scheduling