A Telepresence-Based Environment for
Concurrent Engineering Construction Projects
Corresponding Author: Duke, Alistair
Author(s): Duke, A. (*), and Anumba, C.J. (+)
Organisation(s): (*) BT Laboratories (UK), (+) Loughborough University (UK)
The adoption of concurrent engineering principles in the construction industry will increase the level of collaboration between the parties involved in the project. One aim of concurrent engineering is to address downstream issues early on in the project life-cycle. This calls for the involvement of all parties (including specialist contractors) at a much earlier stage than would be the case in a traditional construction project environment. It is not feasible for all these parties to be co-located during this period of design and hence the reliance of the project group upon information and communications technologies will increase. The deployment of these technologies throughout the project life-cycle will be beneficial for effective collaboration.

This paper identifies work carried out to create an integrated information and collaboration environment for concurrent engineering construction projects. The intention of the environment is to create a persistent space to support interaction between project personnel throughout the design and construction phases of the project. It will help people who cannot be together to work together.

A communications architecture is introduced that will provide an infrastructure for such an environment. The elements of the architecture are explained and then discussed alongside the current and expected deployment of information and communications technology within the industry. The user's perspective is defined and the modes of interaction are explained using the architecture as a basis.

The primary features of the environment are visual representations of the construction project and of the people working on it. These representations will provide access to project information via integration with project data management systems and access to the people via integrated communication channels. As well as acting as a unified interface for the project and its people, the intention is to improve collaboration by promoting serendipitous contact. Agent technology is being employed to allow the environment to draw users towards people with common issues or interests and towards elements of the project information that are of potential interest. The intention is to recreate for remote people the ad hoc meetings and informal cues that are so important for collaboration when people are co-located or are located at the workface.