Digitalization as Driver for Standardized Specification and Design of Buildings: In Search of an Efficient Building Design Management Methodology

Niels Treldal

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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The architectural, engineering and construction industry is suffering from low productivity and the integration of project information, design solutions, design processes and project organization is believed to be a solution to produce high performing buildings more efficiently. Utilization of contractual frameworks to support such integration is still relatively new to the industry, but when successfully implemented it can foster collaboration and considerably increase possibilities for achieving project success related to buildings which are buildable, operable, usable, and sustainable. Digitalization is a driver in such a framework to support an efficient way of working, but multiple barriers exist for its expansion. This thesis focuses on solutions to improve digitalization and integration in the building design process.
The often unique, fragmented and interdependent nature of building design makes it difficult to adopt methodologies from other industries – such as manufacturing – where digitalization and integration seems better established. Solutions to integrate the different elements in building design processes into a coherent methodology are far less explored, and the goal of this research is, therefore, to increase the understanding of the relation between information needs, standardisation and efficient design management. The research draws on findings from previous research on information management, design management and socio-technical science and focuses in particular on an improved foundation for efficient planning and decision making processes.
The research concludes that high variability exists in current building design processes. This could be acceptable if the goal is to increase the understanding of the design problems to solve, but there is a risk that non-value adding design iterations will occur too frequently if the variability is not carefully managed. Building a strong community within the design team is found to be critical to reduce variability as it allows project managers to entrust the team to find solutions and coordinate activities more efficiently. Based on several case studies it is identified that applying an agile project management method adds a needed structure to the design development process and increase collaboration and shared understanding. Only when such applicable management practices are in place, digitalization can add proper value. For digitalization to add value, efficient information management is also found to be critical, which requires that information can be captured, structured and exchanges in a standardized way.
To achieve efficient standardization, proposals for modularisation and expansion of current industry information exchange standards were developed in the current research. An IDM package framework is proposed to make the current IDM methodology from buildingSMART more modular and easier to reuse and utilize on projects. A generic LOD framework is proposed to make the agreement on geometry information exchange more pragmatic. Furthermore, an expanded schema architecture is proposed for the BCF format from buildingSMART to support an increased use of process information exchange within task management. The proposals were evaluated in several different ways and found to match a range of industry needs, making the proposals of interest for further research and development.
Based on the findings, operational principles of how building design can be produced efficiently are described with specific considerations to information flow and value generation. The operational principles are, furthermore, combined with socio-technical and reflective theory to propose a methodology of how information in building design can be managed to also support a collaborative and learning building design process. A methodology is proposed and contains information models for the mission, function, product, and process (MFPP) for building projects to summarize the findings in this research in a combined contribution to further research and development. The methodology is a pragmatic approach to more extensive PLM systems used in the manufacturing industry and incorporates an agile design development process. The modular yet structured approach in the MFPP methodology allows for automation of information requirements, flow optimization and automatic identification of relations between information models, which is believed to lower the barriers for implementation of digitalization and integration in the AEC industry.
The research makes use of a range of different theories and methods which have previously been evaluated individually in the AEC industry and found useful. Based on the findings in this thesis it seems clear that these theories and methods should not be considered as alternatives to each other but as elements in an integrated approach. A key challenge ahead for the AEC industry is to find ways to integrate these theories and methods as opposed to executing them in parallel and thereby not achieving the required level of improvement. The MFPP methodology can serve as contribution to how several perspectives can be integrated in a common approach for efficient building design management.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark, Department of Civil Engineering
Number of pages200
ISBN (Print)978-87-7877-461-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
SeriesB Y G D T U. Rapport


Digitalisering som driver for standardiseret specificering og projektering af byggeri

Treldal, N., Karlshøj, J., Dam, R. H., Fischer, M., Nielsen, T. R., Hjelseth, E. & Kiviniemi, A.

Industrial PhD


Project: PhD

Cite this

Treldal, N. (2017). Digitalization as Driver for Standardized Specification and Design of Buildings: In Search of an Efficient Building Design Management Methodology. Technical University of Denmark, Department of Civil Engineering. B Y G D T U. Rapport, No. R-367