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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 78
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Paper 4

Web-Based Concurrent Conceptual Design

J. Miles+, D. Bouchlaghem*, C. Anumba*, M. Chen+, M. Taylor+ and H. Shang*

+Cardiff School of Engineering, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
*Department of Civil Engineering & Building, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
J. Miles, D. Bouchlaghem, C. Anumba, M. Chen, M. Taylor, H. Shang, "Web-Based Concurrent Conceptual Design", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on the Application of Artificial Intelligence to Civil and Structural Engineering", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 4, 2003. doi:10.4203/ccp.78.4
Keywords: concurrent engineering, conceptual design, construction, network, computer supported cooperative working, web based.

For the conceptual design of buildings, a team of designers from different disciplines and typically belonging to different companies has to be assembled. These people come together for a given project and in effect form a virtual organisation. Although in some circumstances collocation is possible, for the vast majority of cases, the people involved are working on different schemes at the same time and so collocation would be very disruptive. Therefore the virtual organisation consists of people who are geographically remote. The need for communication between these separate and geographically remote participants requires frequent meetings which are time consuming and expensive.

In recent years, to cut down delivery times and enhance quality, concurrent engineering practices have been used where, as well as the design team, a contractor and often sub-contractors are involved during the design phase. The requirements of concurrent engineering, with people working in parallel rather than in sequence, produce an even greater need for meetings and so the penalties of the team being geographically remote become even more substantial.

Human communication is extremely rich with a significant component being non- verbal and instead consisting of body language, eye contact and gestures. This non- verbal component ensures that with the current state of IT technology that face to face meetings will always be required but if a means could be found to reduce the number of meetings, significant savings could be achieved.

Software environments for synchronous and asynchronous distributed concurrent design using the Internet have been developed but these are based on CAD and analysis tools and so do not cover the requirements of conceptual design where ideas need to be generated and tested quickly and easily.

This paper describes a research project to develop an Internet based collaboration environment to assist with the conceptual design of buildings. The work includes extensive collaboration with a client and practising designers to assess the functional requirements of such a system. This has resulted in a process model plus a prototype system. The latter includes sketching facilities, a visualisation tool, a cost model, constraint checking, video conferencing plus a novel VR based user interface. The underlying functionality such as file handling, security, etc is provided by BSCW. The system is about to undergo long-term evaluation.

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