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Transforming construction by adopting a Lean Thinking approach...

Welcome to CIRIA's Lean Construction page.

Lean thinking in construction encompasses the idea that customer value can be maximised, whilst waste is minimised. Simply speaking, Lean transformation means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

News (August 2017) - New Lean Guide

Lean construction: Health and Safety synergies

The benefits of Lean in terms of continuous improvement, communication and empowerment are well recognised. However, Lean thinking is entirely consistent with the desire to execute a project safely, effectively and efficiently. 

Over the past six months, CIRIA has managed a collaborative project with industry to help identify these synergies and illustrate approaches that can be used to support health and safety aims in a variety of situations from problem solving at a task level to overall programme management. 

The project involved two workshops together with a number of written contributions the aim of the report is to: 
(a) stimulate further interest and discussion of the potential for applying Lean techniques to health and safety challenges in the construction sector and 
(b) encourage the capture and quantification of health and safety benefits arising from the application of Lean to construction 

A document capturing these findings can be downloaded from 
The guide is being issued with a view to stimulating the collection of further case studies that help illustrate and quantify the health and safety benefits of Lean. 

For full details on the guide, please click here.

More Lean guidance planned

The above guide is one of a suite of guides planned by CIRIA on Lean

  • Building Lean capacity through training etc.
  • Lean and the design process
  • Quantifying lean benefits (case studies)
  • Health & Safety benefits of Lean

If you are interested in contributing to the development of these guides please email Owen Jenkins at CIRIA.

Details of existing guides are set out below:

CIRIA Lean Construction guides

Our guide “Build Lean” published in 2011 was, quite literally, a novel approach to describing how an organisation might trial, demonstrate and roll out lean activities.  The narrative in the book describes how the lead character, Steve, uses Lean to transform his organisation into a successful customer-facing business.
The publications was followed in 2013 with a further suite of six guides addressing the following questions:
•    Which are the principal Lean tools in a construction context?
•    What can clients do to promote,  enable and benefit from Lean? •
•    How can the benefits of applying Lean be measured and demonstrated across an organisation?
•    What is the best way to go about appointing and working with a Lean consultant to increase organisational capacity ?

These guides also recognised that, currently, the greatest successes in construction arise from the congruence of different initiatives and tools. So the following guides were also prepared.
•    How are the Lean and BIM agendas linked?
•    How are the Lean and sustainability agendas linked?

Click here for an overview of the guides and an introduction to Lean.

Download individual guides:

C729 Lean consultants
C728 Lean clients
C727 Lean tools
C727 Lean benefits
C726 Lean and sustainability
C725 Lean and BIM
C769 Health and Safety synergies of Lean

There have been over 2,500 downloads of our Lean Guides to date.

Lean Webinar

Authors of CIRIA’s Lean construction guides share the principles and practicalities of implementing lean in construction. Webinar presentations are accessible via the links below:
Enabling lean - Client's guide, Gerry Chick, BRE
Enabling lean - Appointing a consultant, Nigel Fraser, West One Management Consulting Ltd
Applying lean - Principal tools, Richard O'Connor, Transform Business Improvement Ltd
Applying lean - Benefits realisation management, Stuart Smith, Borton Group

Build Lean – CIRIA's guide to Lean construction

Transforming Construction using Lean thinking (2011)

This innovative Lean construction guide, written in the form of a novel introduces Steve, a senior leader in a construction business, as he receives news of another failed tender. He licks his wounds and goes on to compare two projects, one which out-performed the other, as a result of using a Lean Thinking approach. Follow Steve on his journey as he discovers how Lean can help his business.

Find out more about the Lean guidance and read chapter summaries, as well as a general overview.

Order your copies now (£28 for members and £55 for non-members). Bulk discounts are also available.

"Our suppliers are showing genuine enthusiasm and commitment towards Lean and are producing excellent results. The new guide from CIRIA will help them to develop further on their Lean journey and make continuous improvement practice sustainable within their organisations. It's an interesting read that is specially targeted at construction and should hopefully raise some thought provoking questions!" Derek Drysdale, Director Lean Improvement Division, Highways Agency

Build Lean - training

In 2011 CIRIA launched Lean in construction training. The training, aimed at senior managers, aims to give delegates an insight into what Lean is and how it can be applied in construction and provide delegates with a sound understanding of Lean principles.

Find out more about training...

Lean Briefings

These short articles provide a concise introduction to a number of Lean topics.


Event reports


Past events

Transforming the construction sector: what does Lean Thinking have to offer?

1 March 2012

CIRIA was delighted to host Daniel Jones, one of the world’s authorities on applying lean. In an inspiring lecture, Daniel illustrated what lean thinking has to offer construction and the importance, in particular if Lean leadership.

The evening also included presentations from

• Nick Pollard, Chair of the Cabinet Office Efficiency & Report Task Group

• Derek Drysdale, Divisional Director, Lean Improvement, Highways Agency

• Terry Stock, Head of Project Delivery Unit, Ministry of Justice

View the presentations...

Transforming construction using Lean thinking

9 May 2011

This event provided delegates with the opportunity to:

• gain insight as to how the change to a lean culture can be achieved within your organisation

• consider the drivers on industry from the perspectives of different parties concerning the lean process - including private and public-sector clients, designers and contractors

• find out more about CIRIA’s publication, explaining how it can help organisations develop their approach to lean construction

• find out about other guidance and activities on lean construction.

View the presentations...