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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 81
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Paper 23

Ontology Development for Semantic Web Based Services in Construction

D. Ruikar, C.J. Anumba, Z. Aziz, P.M. Carrillo and N.M. Bouchlaghem

Centre for Innovative Construction Engineering, Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
D. Ruikar, C.J. Anumba, Z. Aziz, P.M. Carrillo, N.M. Bouchlaghem, "Ontology Development for Semantic Web Based Services in Construction", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Computing", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 23, 2005. doi:10.4203/ccp.81.23
Keywords: semantic web, wireless technologies, scenario development, roadmap, construction services.

Developing a mechanism to manipulate (capture, store, search, retrieve) data generated during project lifecycle has been of interest since the realization that personel and project data are the most important strategic resources within a project organisation. Research and working practices over the last decade have also shown that location and time independent interaction and collaboration among the multidisciplinary competencies of the building industry at the early design stage, highly influences the quality of the final building product. This has lead to a change in paradigm with regard to information handling within the construction sector. The traditional paper based information storage and presentation medium has now been substituted and complemented with digital storage accessible for reading and updating at an optional time and place.

Even though the concurrent ICT enables the formation of virtual project teams that can work across geographical and time constraints through virtual workspaces, integrating the heterogeneous information sources particularly ones that contain weakly structured information remains an uneasy task in the building sector. The wide use of low level technologies mostly adhering to hyperlinks and keyword searches and the lack of meta level data structures is the main reason behind this non-integrating phenomenon. Web-based document management applications serve to store, organize, and manage a collection of documents within the context of a building project and the current WWW works well for posting and rendering all kinds of web contents but provides very limited support for processing them. This is because most web contents are stored in natural language chunks, which makes them very much dependent on the human users during search, access, extraction, interpretation and processing. Further, the growing use of the WWW has increased the difficulty to manipulate the exponentially increasing amount of information. In response to this, the vision of a Semantic Web was created in order to enable automated information access and use based on machine-processable semantics of data. The Semantic Web's relevance in supporting the construction process lies in the fact that the typical data requirements of construction workers are for either time critical activities (e.g. Request for Information, collaboration with project partners) or for those that can facilitate task completion (e.g. access to drawings, schedules etc.)

This paper describes the context and methods for the deployment of Semantic Web services in the construction sector It explains potentials for the use of technologies such as the Semantic Web and discusses how it will support and influence the building design process and its organisation. Important advances in the development of the Semantic Web and its application within the construction sector are also discussed. This is done specifically in relation to the information management and transfer process with the building design process. In a typical document sharing environment the end user has to seek the documents to perform tasks. For this the user may need to share documents, navigate and query the document database. Current document sharing systems consists of a series of pull services i.e. users actively seeking information, and they need to go and get what they actually require. The prototype application presented in this paper makes the suggestion that what is required besides these pull services is push services to provide the required documentation to the mobile worker. The prototype discussed in this paper demonstrates how the use of Semantic Web applications could facilitate better access to project data i.e. drawings and document. This prototype system (OntoWise) helps manage project data efficiently and effectively. For finding the correct documentation it has to be provided, structured and maintained. This is facilitated by the use of common Ontologies. Ontologies are decentralized vocabularies of concepts and their relations to which the existing web contents can refer. These decentralized vocabularies not only define the meaning of web page contents but also the contents of other information resources, including documents(paper-based) and databases. Ontologies are therefore the kernel of the Semantic Web that allow computers to better categorize, retrieve, query and deduce information from the WWW than the current web technology

The paper concludes that ICTs such as the Semantic Web must not be regarded as a technology tool that needs to be adopted within an organisation but as an integral part of the company and the project knowledge management system. The effectiveness of the Semantic Web relies on the development of shared ontologies and semantic standards to ensure increased interoperability across devices, platforms and application. Hence the full realization of the vision of Semantic Web as stated within this paper is possible only when the construction industry agrees on common standards and ontologies for process and product description.

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