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Computational Science, Engineering & Technology Series
ISSN 1759-3158
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping
Chapter 5

The Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Construction

A.P. Chassiakos

Department of Civil Engineering, University of Patras, Greece

Full Bibliographic Reference for this chapter
A.P. Chassiakos, "The Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Construction", in B.H.V. Topping, (Editor), "Civil Engineering Computations: Tools and Techniques", Saxe-Coburg Publications, Stirlingshire, UK, Chapter 5, pp 79-104, 2007. doi:10.4203/csets.16.5
Keywords: information and communication technology, construction, information management systems, web-based project management, e-business, virtual reality, mobile computing, wireless communication.

Over recent years, there has been a growing interest in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for improving the efficiency of the construction process. This is due to the fact that ICT, when appropriately used, can significantly contribute to the timely, economical, and successful deployment of construction projects. ICT research and industrial advancements have pointed toward several development directions such as Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMs), Web-based Project Management Systems (WPMS), Application Service Providers (ASP), E-work and E-business, Virtual Reality (VR) applications, mobile computing, and wireless communication.

Electronic document management systems (EDMs) have been developed to track and store electronic documents, providing storage, versioning, metadata, security, as well as indexing and retrieval capabilities. Web-based project management systems (WPMS) combine databases with web technologies for remote information management and sharing. Many contractors have also Enterprise Web Sites or use Project Specific Web Sites (PSWS) to share information with other partners, customers and suppliers. Application Service Providers (ASPs) are professional information technology companies that provide computer-based services to Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) customers through the internet. E-hubs are business-to-business web portals that provide a meeting ground (e-commerce, e-procurement, e-tendering, and e-contracting) for buyers and sellers in the construction sector. Virtual Reality (VR), 4D and nD modelling represent computer generated environments that combine 3D CAD visualization with multi-aspects of construction information such as scheduling, costing, etc. Mobile devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), wearable computers (computers that are worn on the body to allow hands-free operation), or mobile phones are used to remotely monitor the site and collect data in real-time as well as to communicate information between the project sites and the decision making office. Teleconferencing/videoconferencing is another tool used in construction to facilitate collaboration on complex or large projects.

ICT solutions and tools have been proved to be advantageous for the construction industry. However, the review indicates a number of limitations and barriers to their wide acceptance and implementation. Among them, one can highlight the following:

  • Construction is known for its conservative attitude towards adopting new technologies. The main obstacles for ICT use are the reluctance or difficulty of the construction industry to modify its current ways of operation, the high investment costs, and the need for computer-skilled staff.
  • The effectiveness and usefulness of web-based project management applications in construction projects are still not as high as initially expected, mainly because many important factors that can greatly impact on system performance are left unknown or misunderstood by most practitioners.
  • The lack of information standardisation has been a major obstacle for computer-integrated construction management.
  • E-commerce technologies, although significantly improved in recent years and perceived as a mainstream to improve productivity, information flow, and communications, have not been adopted widely in the construction supply chain.
  • While existing communication technologies (wired, mobile, and wireless) offer a wide range of information transmittal alternatives to the construction industry, technological and financial constraints limit their availability to particular classes of users and circumstances.
  • Although many companies are increasing their expenditure on information and communication technologies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage in their respective marketplaces, they have often been left in the quandary of how to evaluate these investments.
Indicative priority areas for further research advancements with the potential to work out ICT related problems for the construction industry include knowledge management, legal and contractual aspect management, quality and performance management, total life cycle management, and human aspect management.

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