Buffer Types and Methods of Deployment in Construction

Fernanda S. Bataglin1, Daniela D. Viana2, Rafael V. Coelho3, Iris D. Tommelein4 & Carlos T. Formoso5

1PhD Candidate, Postgraduate Program in Civil Engineering: Construction and Infrastructure (PPGCI), Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre 90035-190, Brazil, [email protected],
2Adjunct Professor, PPGCI, UFRGS, [email protected],
3Graduate Student, Civil and Envir. Eng. Dept., University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1712, USA, [email protected],
4Graduate Student, Civil and Envir. Eng. Dept., University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-1712, USA, [email protected],
5Professor, PPGCI, UFRGS, [email protected],


Flow is a key concept in Lean Production and is particularly important in construction. Due to the complexity of projects, in part due to managerial practices adopted, much variability exists in construction resource flows. Production system design can be used to eliminate at least some unwanted variability and then reduce the impact of remaining variability by using buffers in order to improve such flows. Accordingly, planners may add buffers of certain sizes in certain locations into the system, or use more systematic, adaptive, data-driven methods. With this in mind, the authors initiated a systematic literature review (SLR) on buffers in construction. The paper contributes to knowledge by defining the term ‘buffer’ and providing a characterization of buffer types and methods of deployment. Despite advances in understanding and method development, no one method stands out. The methods as described fall short of being able to both proactively determine buffer sizes and locations in the production system to suitably accommodate anticipated needs, and also reactively adjust them in light of system design changes. The use of SLR as the research methodology has well-known limitations, but the findings were revealing, and follow-on research will cast a wider net for relevant literature.


Buffer, slack, contingency, flow, variability.



Bataglin, F. S. , Viana, D. D. , Coelho, R. V. , Tommelein, I. D. & Formoso, C. T. 2021, 'Buffer Types and Methods of Deployment in Construction' In:, Proc. 29th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC). Lima, Peru, 14-16 Jul 2021. pp 849-858

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