A Virtual Work Environment for AEC Project Collaboration
Corresponding Author: Forgber, Uwe
Author(s): Forgber, U.
Organisation(s): Universität Karlsruhe (Germany)
Complex problem solving involving multidisciplinary participants requires a high degree of collaboration in order to reach a successful solution. Not only a high degree of transparency on the level of problem content, but also the awareness of the dynamically changing interdependencies among the participants are key factors for any strategy to integrate a project team. Over the past decades, many efforts have been made to support the design and planning process in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry with various IT components. However, these efforts were focusing mainly on the development of stand-alone tools supporting single tasks. Attempts to integrate tools and project participants, through general building models [1] [2] mainly on the level of planning content have not proven to be sufficient. Moreover, integrating project participants on a project management level in close combination with a content related design and planning environment has been addressed with very little effort. References will be given [3] [4] [5]. The emergence of disciplines such as facility management and its integration into long term investment strategies has currently enhanced the awareness of the potential of a design, planning and management workspace oriented around a building life cycle approach. 

The work presented in this paper addresses the implementation of a project specific virtual workspace for distributed collaborative work. A conceptual approach allows the dynamic definition of each project structure and allows the specific application of tools, databases and other resources needed for project work [6]. A prototypical implementation of the virtual workspace will be introduced. The results from several research projects undertaken by the Institut für Industrielle Bauproduktion (ifib), Universität Karlsruhe (TH) will be used to demonstrate the effectiveness of the workspace. 

The applied approach reflects the validation of scientific assumptions through industry partnerships and academic training. The goal has been to develop applicable work environments as opposed to theoretical constructs. The implementation of a virtual workspace as a general framework (with the potential to integrate further developments) has been the main focus. The resulting web based software structure will be introduced.

The virtual workspace is currently being applied in prototype form by several industry consortia. Additionally, project work involving virtual planning environments has been conducted with students incorporating the collaboration with clients (real world planing scenarios) and engineers (life long learning) over the internet. 


[1] http://erg.ucd.ie/combine.html
[2] http://www.steptools.com/library/standard/
[3] http://www.bidcom.com
[4] http://www.bluelineonline.com
[5] http://www.nemetschek.de/main.nsf
[6] Forgber, U. Müller, C. : "Zwischenbericht des Verbundprojektes RETEx II / INTESOL für das Jahr 1997", Institut für Industrielle Bauproduktion (ifib), Universität Karlsruhe (TH) 1997.