Control Mechanism for Information Sharing in an
Integrated Construction Environment
Corresponding Author: Sun, Ming
Author(s): Sun, M.
Organisation(s): Built and Human Environment Research Centre, University of Salford (UK)
The development of integrated construction environment aims at facilitating data integration between multiple AEC software applications, thus enabling information sharing between different professionals during the construction process. In recent years, there has been a series of UK and EU funded research initiatives addressing the integration issue. Two central aspects of an integrated construction system are:
1 An underlying common data model that makes the data integration between applications possible;
2 Adequate system control mechanism that makes the integration operating efficiently and correctly.

There has been a consensus in the AEC industry on the model-based integration approach between multiple software applications. A number of data models have been developed, for example the RATAS model, the Building Core Model, the Integrated Data Model of COMBINE project, the Integrated Product Model of COMBI, the Logical Product Model for CIMSteel, and the on-going IAIís Industry Foundation Classes. As a result of these efforts, it is reasonable to expect that a stable building data model will emerge in the near future.

These is however no such a consensus on the control mechanism needed in an integrated system. A variety of approaches have been adopted by several on-going and recently completed research projects in Europe. Furthermore, the technology in this respect is not mature, and most prototype systems developed in these projects are only fit for demonstration purposes. They are not sufficiently robust for testing by construction professionals in real projects. 

This paper intends to review and evaluate these different approaches of information sharing control. It will present a snapshot of state of art in system integration control mechanism. The criteria of the review will include:
1 Data repository: The shared building data may be stored in a central database, multiple homogenous databases or distributed heterogeneous databases. Their ability of design versioning and design history. 
2 Access technologies: CORBA, SDAI, ISO-STEP physical files or purpose built database interaction API.
3 Transaction scopes: Model-based, schema-based or instance-based.
4 Process knowledge: Built-in transaction control in the central database, or independent control module based on process  modelling.

The integration approaches of the identified systems will be compared and they will also be measured against the requirements of an integrated construction system that is able to support full concurrent engineering by multiple disciplines.