Integrated collaborative building design using Internet technology
Communication between the parties in a project of an integrated collaborative engineering system has been the subject of active research for many years. The construction industry has a long tradition of collaborative working between the members of the construction team. At the design stage, this has traditionally been based on physical meetings between representatives of the principal design team members. To aid these meetings, the information and communication technologies that are currently available have been used. These Information Technology (IT) tools have produced some success but are held back by the problems posed by the use of diverse software tools and the lack of effective collaboration tools. The collaboration tools are necessary to reduce the time and distance constraints, in the increasingly global design teamwork. IT-supported collaborative construction design refers to actors in product design processing, working together on the same project with IT networks used for mediation to overcome time and geographical constraints. Fragmentation of the project management of a building construction between different specialists may be necessary, but good communication and coordination among the participants is essential to accomplish the overall goals of the project. New information technologies can be helpful in this process, especially the Internet and specialised extranets. A collaborative Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) design environment has been proposed by this research to integrate the work of distributed project participants. Based on identified functional requirements, the conventional building product models have been extended to incorporate high-level concepts such as activity and organisation, which are essential for coordination and collaboration. A generic human-project-human interaction model has been developed, which could not only make the building domain models interaction-aware, but also serve as a base model for developing general interaction utilities. A collaborative design environment prototype has been described, covering the common project workspace, general interaction utilities and multi-user interfaces. This study characterises collaboration as a function of time, space and shared working environment with enabled real-time design tools over the World Wide Web (WWW). To realise the proposal of this research the inter-mediated design communication, visual presentation, integration and organisation frameworks, groupware technology, and interactive multimedia tools are used. This study presents the CODE (COllaborative Design Environment) system. This Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) virtual working space is argued to support collaboration and teamwork in real time. The evaluation of the system showed its feasibility and reliability through a workshop. The results showed that the CODE system can assist the collaborative AEC design process.