Supporting consistency in linked specialized engineering models through bindings and updating.
Thesis (PhD (Civil Engineering))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
Elements of the Architecture-Engineering-Construction (AEC) industry are the result of a process involving planning, engineering and construction. A number of professions and professionals are involved, and the process is characterized by frequent changes. Consequently the problem of consistency of information is a major concern which casts a shadow on the integrity of the process. The research described in this dissertation was aimed at the development of techniques and technologies which can alleviate the problem of information exchange and consistency. Currently some commercial software applications support users working in an integrated environment in the exchange of information between different models. However, this is limited to the suite of models provided by the software vendor and consequently it forces all the parties involved in a project to use the same software. This excludes potential participants and the software-suites are usually expensive as well. In contrast, the research described here investigated ways of using standard software applications, which may be specialized for different professional domains. These are linked for effective transfer of information and a binding mechanism is provided to support consistency between the models. This prevents the exclusion of participants, allowing them to use familiar software packages, without losing the ability to keep the various models consistent amongst project partners. This is of particular importance to specialists that use problem specific applications which may not be included in expensive, integrated suites. The solution approach presented in the dissertation accounts for the following well known properties of the AEC industry: Ownership - each model that abstracts a specific aspect of the project is created, manipulated and controlled by a responsible person/party. No one may circumvent the model owner to manipulate a model. Diversity - the various role players often do not understand the complexity and value of the work of the other parties involved. Long transactions - the time duration of tasks in the construction industry is not short and information cannot be managed on a transaction basis. The various role players must be supported to work in parallel, exchanging relevant information constantly as the project develops. The proposed solution consists of a linking and binding mechanism that supports the definition of inter-object dependencies. These dependencies are described by Binder instances. Update behavior is assigned to Binder instances through customized Updater instances. The binding mechanism addresses important issues like change detection, update sequence determination and the execution of an update in dependent models. The proposed solution was successfully implemented using a CAD system and an independent Finite Element application in order to verify the theoretical aspects of the work.