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Title: The implication of BIM use on communication channels in design processes for Saudi architectural engineering (AE) firms
Author: Alnaser, Aljwhara A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 8999
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2018
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This research explores the implications of implementing building information modelling (BIM) on existing communication channels used in the design processes for professionals at architecture, engineering (AE) firms in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Although considerable research on communication channels exists in terms of their effectiveness in collaborative environments, such as face to face meetings versus computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies, to date relatively few studies have investigated the effect of implementing BIM on existing communication channel mechanisms at Saudi AE firms. In doing this research, three different concepts were mobilised in order to understand the dynamic processes of communication among diverse AE professionals in general, and within BIM collaborative environments in particular. Importantly, three different literatures: communication, team, and collaboration were considered as the main pillars of this study. In addition, this study reviewed theoretical communication process models (from linear to interaction processes), team theory, and cross-profession collaboration theory. Based on this review, 38 distinct factors were selected based on their impact on dynamic communication, team, and collaboration processes. These factors were grouped into three themes: 1) collaborative team characteristics; 2) leadership; and 3) methodology of information exchange. These themes were then used to develop an analytical framework to explore the implications and effects of BIM technology on the communication channels used by various professionals. Significantly, some overlap between these 38 factors was identified both within and across these themes, which subsequently assisted in developing the empirical research questions and in exploring further factors and their influence on communication channels during the qualitative data analysis process. To prepare for this research, a pilot study was first conducted on three Saudi AE organisations and one individual from the Saudi Ministry of Health. Based on the outcomes of this pilot study, a broader case study was then conducted on a leading Saudi AE firm that uses BIM. This study collected qualitative data through semi-structured interviews with 22 professionals in various departments at one prominent Saudi firm. The case study findings revealed that adopting BIM technology at this firm resulted in changes in the mechanisms used for communication channels among various professionals. Specifically, BIM adoption changed communication patterns (e.g. from formal to informal, and vice versa) and subsequently the type of communication channels used. As a result, one to one or group meetings paired with the use of hand sketches during such meetings emerged as the most preferred means of communication for these BIM users. In addition, when compared to the case study firm’s former CAD-based system, such changes were accompanied by reduced time spent on communication processes themselves and decreased dependence on previous communication channels (e.g. FTF meetings and email). However, no conclusive evidence emerged as to whether adopting BIM technology either reduced or increased the need for verbal communication at this firm. Importantly, this study concluded that adopting BIM changed the communication channels used at the firm, and that these changes were dynamic. Notably, the study results suggest that this phenomenon was a result of influences that were grouped into five themes: the communication protocols applied, the impact of rumours, the level of leadership, resistance to change, and the technical features of BIM technology. It is worth noting that of these five themes, four relate to the conditions and characteristics of the organisation, and the fifth concerns the characteristics of the BIM technology itself and the benefits it affords in improving information exchange processes. Given these findings, one could conclude that changes occurred in communication channels after the firm adopted BIM, and that these changes were due to the technical features of the technology and the organisational environment. However, the magnitude of the impact of the firm’s organisational environment had a major impact on these changes. With respect to contribution to knowledge, this study also found that the spread of rumours within or across the firm played a significant role in changing communication channels, either due to the process of verifying or responding to these rumours.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral