nD modelling as an enabler of inter-disciplinary thinking among construction industry stakeholders

Marshall-Ponting, AJ 2006, nD modelling as an enabler of inter-disciplinary thinking among construction industry stakeholders , PhD thesis, Salford : University of Salford.

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This research investigates the collaboration problems faced by the construction industry as a result of the traditional, sequential ways in which its practitioners work, and proposes nD modelling as a new approach for multi-disciplinary teams. The life-cycle of a building - from its design, construction, use, maintenance and demolition - requires and generates a large amount of information from both the supply and demand sides. The individual components that a building is comprised of have mutually reflexive relationships with one another and so changes to one parameter in a design can have positive and negative impacts upon one or more of the other components. However, the sequential way in which practitioners traditionally work, in separate, discipline-defined silos means that they are often unaware of the nature and effects of these relationships. This has resulted in the UK in a construction industry that is characterised by fragmentation and poor communication (Egan, 1998). The nD approach is holistic and aims to integrate all the data and processes related to the n or infinite number of dimensions in the whole lifecycle of a building - the geometric x, y and z dimensions, with time, acoustics, crime, thermal requirements, access, facilities management and maintenance to name a few - into one, single process. In doing so, the discipline based silos in which construction related stakeholders are based will be broken down and replaced with concurrent collaboration methods, enhanced comprehension of building plans through the use of advanced computer interfaces and better access to information by stakeholders. Information communication technologies (ICTs) can help facilitate organisational change by supporting new ways of working: the barriers of time and space between collaborators can be bridged by electronic data exchanges and telephone- and videoconferencing which allow individuals to work in both synchronous and asynchronous ways between offices in the same building or between continents throughout the world. ICTs can also facilitate better teaching and understanding in the classroom, in public participation forums and on the building site through the use of enhanced interfaces and virtual reality technology. By using an nD model as a data repository for all the information required during the building lifecycle, it can be used for decision-making and 'what-if scenario development so that the impacts of small changes to individual components upon the whole design can be established. This research proposes that for an nD modelling approach to be truly holistic, it is not sufficient to add all the dimensions and data together so that nD equals the sum of all the separate dimensions, in other words for it to be multi-disciplinary in nature. Instead, and in common with business process re-engineering approaches, if a new approach to collaboration is to have real efficiency and effectiveness gains it must be more radical in nature. It is proposed therefore that nD modelling should aim to be inter-disciplinary in nature: the approach should be greater than the sum of its constituent parts. Whilst ICTs can help facilitate better collaboration on a practical level, in order for them to be implemented successfully in teams and organisations it is essential to understand some of the social and psychological aspects of the membership and dynamics of groups. It is important to establish the social pre-requisites for successful teams - such as the existence of trust - and understand how these relationships may change, for better and for worse, as a result of electronic communication and collaboration. As a result of a literature search and a number of workshops, a framework has been developed and validated which illustrates how the currently multi-disciplinary construction industry can become more holistic and inter-disciplinary in nature by overcoming a number of barriers that currently exist. It is proposed that, although construction stakeholders continue to think and work in mono-disciplinary ways, by adopting the inter-disciplinary nD modelling approach they will be able to exploit a number of opportunities that will allow the industry to be more efficient, trusting and effective.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Aouad, G (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of the Built Environment
Depositing User: Institutional Repository
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2012 13:34
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2022 11:21
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/26803

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