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ISSN 1759-3158
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Chapter 2

Computer Integrated Construction: Recent Developments and Future Directions

G. Aouad+, M. Sun+ and I. Faraj*

+School of Construction and Property Management, University of Salford, United Kingdom
*The Business School, Department of Business Information Technology, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom

Full Bibliographic Reference for this chapter
G. Aouad, M. Sun, I. Faraj, "Computer Integrated Construction: Recent Developments and Future Directions", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Civil and Structural Engineering Computing: 2001", Saxe-Coburg Publications, Stirlingshire, UK, Chapter 2, pp 27-53, 2001. doi:10.4203/csets.5.2
Keywords: construction, integrated construction environments, IFC, integration, OSCON, WISPER, GALLICON.

This paper gives an overview of research undertaken within the area of Computer Integrated Construction (CIC) with particular reference to project integrated databases. Recent developments are highlighted and future directions are discussed. The paper starts by providing a historical background of the subject area. It then develops an argument for the use and benefits of integrated environments in construction. This is followed by a discussion about the research issues that need to be addressed in the next few years. These issues are investigated within a holistic view addressing technical, financial, cultural and process perspectives. This paper then addresses and discusses the various misconceptions about project integrated databases.

This paper makes reference to current research being conducted at the University of Salford in the UK. Salford has invested heavily in this area and some fruitful results have been realised in bringing together visualisation, object oriented and web technologies to solve some of the problems associated with construction information modelling, integration and communication. This paper describes three integration projects recently carried out at Salford, OSCON (Open System for Construction), WISPER (Web-Based Integrated Shared Project Environment) and GALLICON (Integrated Information Exchange in the water and housing industries).

OSCON seeks to demonstrate building project information can be integrated between multiple software applications through a common data model [1]. The OSCON prototype consists of a central project database and a set of applications including AutoCAD, SuperProject, an estimating tool, a virtual reality package and system management utility. The project database is implemented using object- oriented technology. Each application represents one discipline's view. The OSCON shows that information can be passed between different disciplines and across different abstraction levels through the use of integration perspectives together with process models which describe the conditions for passing information. WISPER is a web-based client-server application which supports integration between detailed design, specification definition, building element based cost estimating, and construction scheduling, in addition to a VRML viewer that allows the graphical querying of a project database [2]. It adopts a three-tier architecture each tier performs a specific function such as presentation (user interface), logic (processing), and data storage (database). The interface layer provides the user with a mean to interact with the system and e.g. input data, manipulate data, visualise information, etc. These interface components communicate with the logic facet of the application. The logic tier makes decisions regarding the quality of the data, how things should be entered, and what information is essential. The logic layer communicates with the data storage layer which in turn takes the decisions made by the logic layer alters stored data accordingly.

GALLICON builds on OSCON and addresses the design and construction of water treatment and housing projects. Its aim is to develop an integrated information framework which will improve the communications and information exchange between the geographically distributed processes of design, cost estimating and project planning [3]. Similar to OSCON, GALLICON supports data integration through an shared project database between a suite of design, cost estimation and project planning tools. In addition, the prototype provides communication supports for collaborative working amongst remotely located team members. These functions allow different professionals to share the rationales behind the decision making process as well as the consequences of the decisions made.

This paper presents a comparison of the above three prototypes and discusses the main issues of integration. In conclusion, it presents a list of recommendations on how the industry can benefit from the potential capabilities these systems can offer.

Aouad G., Marir F., Child T., Brandon P. and Kawooya A., "Construction Integrated Databases- Linking design, planning and estimating, The OSCON approach", International Conference on the Rehabilitation and Development of Civil Engineering Infrastructures. American University of Beirut, pp 52-60, June 1997.
Faraj I, Alshawi M, Aouad G, Child T, and Underwood J., "Distributed Object Environment: Using International Standards For Data Exchange", the Journal of Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering, Blackwell, Vol 14, November, 1999, 395-405. doi:10.1111/0885-9507.00158
Sun M., Aouad G., Bakis N., Birchall S., Swan W., "GALLICON - A prototype for the design of water treatment plants using an integrated project database", International Journal of Computer-integrated Design and Construction, Vol. 2, No. 3, 2000, 157-165.

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