ITcon Vol. 5, pg. 1-24,

Increasing Understanding During Collaboration Through Advanced Representations

submitted:July 1999
revised:January 2000
published:February 2000
editor(s):Z. Turk
authors:Claudio Lottaz
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Switzerland

Rudi Stouffs, Ph.D.
Architecture and CAAD, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland

Ian Smith, Prof.
Structural Engineering and Mechanics, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Switzerland
summary:Efforts to provide support for collaborative work in the AEC industry have resulted in systems that offer various levels of assistance. Although some systems support information transfer in a wide range of formats, they offer little in terms of decision support such as conflict management and negotiation. Other systems provide more decision support but require strict formats for information input and transfer. Nearly all current proposals offer very limited facilities for viewing information. The objective of this paper is to present an environment which has been specifically designed for multiple ways to represent and manipulate information. Several representations, when coupled with appropriate visualization techniques, lead to opportunities for increasing understanding of AEC project characteristics. More specifically, when a numerical constraint solver (SpaceSolver) is integrated within a document-centric collaboration environment (ICC), synergies between information exchange and solution space exploration contribute very positively to the quality of projects. In particular, the ICC environment provides a framework for representing and visualizing information structures that are created during collaboration. Conceptually, an information architecture and visualization techniques to support the virtual AEC enterprise are emphasized. A plug-in architecture allows for the addition of process- specific functionality. The constraint solver SpaceSolver presents a complementary collaborative approach, with strict semantics to support decision making and conflict management. The use of solution spaces during collaborative negotiation avoids premature decisions in the design process, allows detection of conflicting project requirements at early stages of the project, and increases the designers' understanding of hidden relations between design parameters. Together, the ICC environment supports the management of an information space that, when linked to a constraint satisfaction problem, can explain important restrictions and decisions for an effective negotiation. The combination of a flexible framework with more rigid modules, such as constraint solvers, provides a useful compromise and, thus, comprehensive support for a range of AEC projects. Two recently completed construction projects are used to validate the approach
keywords:collaboration, negotiation, electronic document management, information architecture, information visualization, feedback.
full text: (PDF file, 1.415 MB)
citation:Lottaz C, Stouffs R and Smith I (2000). Increasing Understanding During Collaboration Through Advanced Representations, ITcon Vol. 5, pg. 1-24,