This book is written for students from many backgrounds: architecture, surveying, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, structural engineering, construction, project or estate management, property development, conservation and, even, economics. Economics students may find it possible to skip over some of the standard analysis, but should be forewarned that in many ways construction is quite distinct from other sectors of the economy. An important aim of this text is to draw out these distinctions and clarify the unique nature of the industry. In this first chapter we begin to outline the main characteristics of firms involved in construction markets, introducing the complexity of the construction process and diversity of activities. As the chapter develops you will sense that there are a number of possible ways to describe the construction industry. Table 1.1 identifies a range of activities that can be included in a broad definition of the industry. By contrast, Table 1.2 (see page 11) divides the construction process into a number of professional stages and Table 1.3 (see page 19) outlines a simple classification system that narrowly defines the industry as firms that just construct and maintain various types of buildings and infrastructure.