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A SURVEY ON THE USE OF VISUALISATION TOOLS TO COMMUNICATE BUILDABILITY INFORMATION


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A SURVEY ON THE USE OF VISUALISATION TOOLS TO COMMUNICATE BUILDABILITY INFORMATION
A. Ganah, Prof. C. J. Anumba and Dr. N. M. Bouchlaghem
Civil and Building Engineering Department, Loughborough University ABSTRACT Computer Visualisation has been identified by researchers as a tool with potential for communication between different construction participants. For example, it can be used as an effective tool to communicate design information on how components can be assembled together to site operatives. This paper presents an industry survey on the use of computer visualisation to communicate design information as part of a project which aims to demonstrate how computer visualisation can be used in clarifying design details and buildability problems. The survey shows that traditional tools are not adequate to communicate design information related to buildability between designers and builders. It also shows that more effective communication tools may improve the communication between construction and design practitioners. The paper concludes that the use of computer communication may cut costs of construction of buildings by simply considering how components assembled together and buildability problems can be solved during the construction stage. In addition to this, effective communication tools may improve collaboration between construction and design practitioners. Therefore, contractors, architects and engineers with field experience can often improve designs. Keywords: Computer visualisation, Communication, Buildability.

1. INTRODUCTION
Communication in construction has been identified as a problem area (Latham, 1994; Egan, 1998 and Christopher et al, 1999). Many communication problems develop during the construction stage especially between designers and contractors. Design information such as drawings, specification and construction method statements need to be exchanged between them. The design of a building is rarely complete before the construction phase starts. As a result, design details are developed while the construction process is underway. The time needed to check the design details can therefore be tight as time spent identifying missing information or interpreting unclear design details, may cause delays or result in constructing building parts incorrectly. Therefore an effective communication tool is needed to ensuring information is understood and processed correctly to make the construction process run smoothly. Information available to architects at an early stage of a project may be limited. However, the design process depends upon the sequential flow of information that does not include the contractor in the early stages of a project. This disregards skills and information that the contractor maybe able to bring to the design stage. These skills and knowledge include managerial capability, resources utilisation, buildability etc. The transfer of information concerns all participants in the construction process of a project especially which is related to communicating technical details of the design to site team (Griffith, 1994)

Buildability has a big effect on the design and construction of a project (Ferguson, 1989) as designers become removed from the construction process. This lack of knowledge often results in high costs and in some cases, faulty construction (Russell et al, 1994). This paper builds on previous studies (Ganah et al 2000) providing a detailed analysis of an industry survey which is part of a project exploring the potential use of computer visualisation to communicate design intent. It addresses buildability problems and how information related to buildability can be communicated to site teams. 1.1. The aim and objectives of the research The main aim of the research project is to study the potential use of computer visualisation and computer mediated communication to facilitate the exchange of buildability information between designers and constructors to reduce waste and rework in construction, and to ensure that information is transferred properly, correctly, and in time. In order to achieve the aim, this research has the following objectives: 1. Review existing visualisation tools and communication infrastructure in building construction practice and construction companies; 2. Review types of project information their supply and difficulties are faced during their transfer between the different participants of a project especially at site level; 3. Develop system specification; 4. Develop a prototype system and validate it (in field trials). To achieve the project objectives, the research adopted two research methods: qualitative and quantitative approaches. A review of previous published work that have been undertaken; this revealed limited work in the use of computer visualisation to communicate design information regarding buildability problems during the construction stage. A summary of the literature survey findings can be found in Ganah et al, (2000) In addition to the literature survey, it was considered essential to undertake an industry survey to establish current practice within the construction industry. It was expected that the survey would: a) Highlight the problem areas and how they were dealt with in practice; b) Ascertain potential problem areas requiring visualisation support; c) Explore the potential for the use of visualisation to enhance site level work; and d) Establish the current level of usage of visualisation on construction sites. Details of a section of the industry survey are included later in this paper.

2. COMPUTER VISUALISATION
There are several definitions of ‘visualisation’. For example, Gallagher (1994) has stated that visualisation is the display of behaviour, particularly with making complex states of behaviour comprehensible to the human eye. Rodriguez (1992) has defined visualisation as the creative ability to form mental images. Visualisation can be in several forms. A simple line drawing can be regarded, as sufficient means for a specific application, whereas, rendered images may be needed for other application. Visualisation offers a method for seeing the unseen. In design, visualisation is the overall imagining and visual-thinking process involved in conceiving, developing, modelling, simulating, testing, documenting, and marketing a device or a structure (Rodriguez, 1992). Representation of structural and building design has

developed gradually step by step in thinking and technology from perspectives to virtual reality in recent years (Bertol 1997). Designers rely on architectural documentation to communicate their design to a construction team. In building design, computer visualisation allows investigations to iron out difficulties that may occur before construction commences on site (Li & Love 1998). As it is known, the spatial relationships between elements in design can be observed and judged by the eye. Hand and eye co-ordination when placing objects is crucial. Computer visualisation, as physical models, combines hand and motion with visual feedback on relationships between objects located in space.

3. BUILDABILITY
Buildability, in the American construction industry known as constructability, is a field of interest to many researchers, practising engineer and architects. Design details are sometimes very difficult and even impossible to construct, this is often a result from design teams not considering problems which the contractor has to face on site (Gray, 1993). It is also seen as a result of fragmentation between the design and construction practitioners (Moore, 1998). Griffith, (1994) states that buildability is the share of the responsibility of all those disciplines who constitute the multi-disciplinary building team including architects, engineers, surveyors, building contractors and sub-contractors, and not the individual responsibility of the architect. Buildability is the use of construction knowledge through out the life of the project in order to assist the ability to construct (CII, 1996). Illingworth (1993) defines buildability as “design and detailing which recognise the problems of assembly process in achieving the desired result safely and at least cost to the client”. Another view from Ferguson (1989) defines buildability as the ability to construct a building efficiently, economically and to agreed quality levels from its constituent materials, components and sub-assemblies. Buildability has a big influence on the cost of a building. Building is a process of assembling components assembling and sub-assembling of its components, the ability to assemble these components logically, accurately and quickly depends on understanding how the interface between these components work. The larger the number of components, the more the number of interfaces to be managed and the more difficult it is to carry out the work. This may result in delays and high cost (Ferguson, 1989). 3.1. Communication of Buildability Talbert (1997) defines communication as the exchange of messages or information among multiple agents. Buildability is communicated mainly through the production drawings. These drawings are often supplemented with specifications. The drawings provide static, as built, information, giving no details as to how the building is to be put together, the specifications are concerned with quality control defined in terms of amount and type of materials with reference to relevant codes of practice and regulations. If information of this type is too detailed may become an obstacle to rational assembly (Ferguson, 1989). Producing buildable design details is an important issue in buildability where the communication of clear designs to other participants in the construction process of a project is crucial. Therefore communication of information is regarded as an important factor for buildability, especially for people who use the information in the construction

process such as contractors and suppliers. An effective and efficient communication tool is essential to avoid misunderstanding of design details by others (Hassan, 1997). Good buildability may only achieved on site if the design intentions are clearly and efficiently communicated to the building contractor (Griffith, 1989). The principal means of communicating the designer’s ideas, intentions and requirements to the site is by drawings, written instructions or mock-ups. These communication media are the source the seeds of understanding or misunderstanding how the proposed building components are fitted together (Ferguson, 1989). If that link is weak then the production process will be time consuming and faulty construction could be the result (Adams, 1989). Therefore, the quality of a constructed facility can be improved by better communication among project participants such as designers and construction practitioners (Russell et al, 1999).

4. INDUSTRY SURVEY
4.1. Introduction To achieve the aims of the survey, two questionnaires were designed to gather information without making it too elaborating for respondents. The first questionnaire was sent to consultants. It included 16 questions divided into 5 categories ranging form general information about the organisation, visualisation and communication tools available, buildability areas with potential problems during construction, collaboration between site team and design team in solving design problems, and assessment of visualisation and communication tools and methods. The second questionnaire format but was designed contractors. 4.2. The sample The target groups were contractors and consultants who build or design medium to high rise buildings. A total of 50 questionnaires were sent to contractors in March 2000. They were selected randomly from the top 100 UK contractors based on turnover (New Civil Engineer 1999) and were involved in the construction of buildings. The number Table 2 Statistics of the consultants’ survey questionnaires of questionnaire replies received from contractors was 28. Ten of these replies Number of questionnaires 50 were unusable, representing a respond rate Number of replies received 16 of 36%. 11 Number of positive replies The second questionnaire was sent to a Per cent of total replies 32% total of 50 consultants in March 2000. Per cent of positive replies 22% These were sampled from the top 100 consultants’ based on turnover UK (New Civil Engineer 1999). The total number of replies (see Table 2) was 16 replies, 5 of these Table 1 Statistics of the contractors’ survey replies were unusable representing a respond rate of questionnaires 22%. The overall response rate was 29%. 4.3. Results The two questionnaires were designed to investigate the use of computer communication and
Number of questionnaires Number of replies received Number of positive replies Per cent of total replies Per cent of positive replies 50 28 18 56% 36%

visualisation during the construction stage of medium to high-rise buildings when communicating information to other participants in the design and construction of buildings. The other purpose was to identify buildability problems that might arise during construction. General information
Table 4 Years organisations have been involved in construction activities

Experience Less than 10 10-19 years 20-29 years 30-39 years 40-49 years 50-59 years Over 60 years Not indicated

Per cent 0 45% 9% 18% 0% 9% 9% 9%

Table 3 shows that the majority 91% of the respondents has been involved in their field for more than 10 years. Table 4 indicates the size of the organisation
Table 3 Size of the surveyed organisation

surveyed by number of employment that 54% of the respondents were employing more that 100 employees.

Size of the organisation 1-10 Employees 11-24 Employees 25-49 Employees 50-99 Employees 100-249 Employees 250-499 Employees 500-999 Employees Over 1000 Employees

Per cent 0% 9% 18% 18% 27% 9% 9% 9%

Not indicated 0% Contractors View Buildability problems: Interfaces between components of services installations was the most common problem experienced (see Figure 1) ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ by contractors. This represents 83% for electrical installations, 64% for plumbing works, and 94% for mechanical installations. The other major buildability area was cladding. Here 89% of the total respondents have ‘Sometime‘ to ‘Frequently‘ experienced problems of interfaces between components. Stairs have been identified by 78% of respondents as the next most problematic buildability.

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Figure 1 Buildability problems (contractor’ respondents view)

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Roof and cladding were assessed with the most buildability problems related to assembly. Both of these have been experienced ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ by 67% of respondents. Assembling stairs was also regarded as a problem area by 67% of the respondents. Sixty one percent of the respondents have ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ had difficulties in assembling mechanical installations. Generally, the most common problem was interfaces between components. Between 33% and 94% of the respondents have ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ experienced this problem in one of the buildability areas. Reasons for buildability problems: Contractors were asked about the causes of buildability problems according to their experience (see Figure 2). Over seventy percent

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Figure 2 Buildability problem causes (contractor’ respondents view)

of the respondents believe that conflicting design information was the most common cause of service installation problems. The main causes of cladding, stairs and roof buildability problems were poor design and conflicting design information according to respondents’ experience. Clarification of buildability problems: clarification of information regarding buildability problems was carried out using 2-D drawings, written statements and face to face meetings (see Table 5). Physical, 3-D models and rendered images were very rarely

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Table 5 Methods used by contractor’ respondents to clarify buildability problems Written 2-D Physical Face to 3-D Rendered Video 4-D Statements Drawings models face Models Images Animation CAD meetings Substructure Slabs Frame Stairs 72% 78% 78% 72% 78% 61% 78% 83% 6% 6% 17% 6% 72% 67% 78% 67% 6% 6% 17% 17% 6% 6% 6% 6% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% VR VRML Presentation on the Internet 0% 11% 0% 0% 0% 6% 6% 6%

0% 0% 0% 0%

Figure 4 Requesting information channels (contractor' respondents)
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Core Roof Cladding Internal Walls Features Electrical Instl. Plumbing Works

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Figure 3 Recommending changes to design details during construction stage (contractor’ respondents)
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used by contractors. Other methods such as rendered images, video animation, VR, VRML, etc. were not used at all. Recommending changes to some design details: Sometimes there is a need to make or recommend changes to some design details on site. Seventy two percent of contractor’ respondents have frequently experienced (see Figure 3) a need to do so. Requesting information channels: Figure 4 shows the most common channels used by contractors to issue requests for information. Fifty-six percent of respondents stated that

they used formal channels to issue requests for information while forty four percent used both formal and informal channels to issue requests for information. Time needed to receive replies to requested information: In response to this question, 39% of respondents (see Figure 5) said it took about a week to receive replies to their requests for information. Communication adequacy between contractors and designers: Sixty-six of the contractor’ respondents (see Figure 6) have assessed the communication adequacy between them and the designers as fair in obtaining the necessary information to perform their job.
Figure5 Communication adequacy (contractor’ respondents view)
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Table 6 The lack of information delay (contracor' respondents view)

Percentage of the lack of information in total delay 0% 1 - 10% 11 - 30% 31 - 50% Over 50%

Contractor’ respondents 0% 44% 6% 39% 11%

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Conflicting instructions: Receiving conflicting instruction from designers is a common problem in construction. Eighty nine percent of the respondents have sometimes experienced (see Figure 7) receiving conflicting instructions from designers during construction stage. Contribution of lack of information in total delay in construction: Delays in construction of a project may be attributed to several reasons one of these is the lack of information during the construction stage of a project. The contractors were asked what percentage does the lack of information contribute toward the total delay in construction. Fifty percent (see Table 6) thought that the lack of information during construction stage could contribute as much as 31% toward the total delay in construction time. Collaboration between construction and design teams: Construction and design teams need to collaborate efficiently to solve design problems that may arise during construction. Figure 8 shows that 100% of contractor’ respondents have ‘Sometimes‘ to
Figure7 Time needed to receive replies to requests for information (contractor' respondents) Figure 6 Receiving conflicting information (contractor' respondents)
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‘Frequently‘ collaborated with design teams to solve deign problems faced during construction. Effect of visualisation on communication: The contractors were asked whether appropriate use of visualisation can improve communication during construction. 50% of respondents think that computer visualisation could make some improvement to communication. Consultants Views Buildability problems: Figure 10 shows that 64% of consultant’ respondents have ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ experienced problems with interface between components of frame, stairs, cladding or mechanical installations. Fifty-five percent of consultant’ respondents have experienced problems associated with interfaces between components of roof and electrical installations. 64% of the respondents have ‘Sometimes‘ to ‘Frequently‘ experienced problems with frame difficult assembly. The other buildability area associated with difficult assembly was cladding as regarded by 55% of the respondents. The respondents regarded the remaining buildability areas such as substructure, slabs, core, etc as less problematic.
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Figure 9 Collaboration with design team in solving design problems (contractor’ respondents)
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Figure 8 Effect of visualisation on communication during construction stage (contractor’ respondents view)

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Figure 10 Buildability problem causes (consultant' respondents view)

Reasons for buildability problems: The causes of buildability problems vary from buildability area to another. Conflicting design information was regarded as the main cause of buildability problems for stairs (73% of the respondents), for substructure, slabs, core, and cladding (55% of the respondents). The other major cause was the lack of experience in reading design drawings (55% of the respondents) (see Figure 11).

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Figure 11 Buildability problem causes (consultant’ respondents view)

Methods used to clarify design details: Table 7 shows the most common methods used to clarify design details. The most common methods were the conventional type i.e. written statements, 2-D drawings and face to face meetings. Computer visualisation such as 3-D models, rendered images, were not or very rarely used.
Table 7 Methods used by consultant’ respondents to clarify information

3-D Models

Written Statements

Substructure Slabs Frame Stairs Core Roof Cladding Internal Walls Features Electrical Installations. Plumbing Works Mechanical Installations. Finishes

82% 82% 82% 82% 73% 73% 73% 73% 64% 64% 64% 64% 64%

82% 82% 82% 82% 82% 82% 82% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73%

18% 18% 18% 18% 18% 18% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9%

73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73% 73%

9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9%

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0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Time needed to respond to information requested by the construction team: Figure 12 shows the time needed by consultant’ respondents to reply to information requests. Fiftyfive of the respondents have stated that they need several day to respond to the requested information by contractors. Contribution of lack of information in the total delay in construction: Table 8 shows the consultant’ respondents’ view about the contribution of lack of information toward the total delay in construction time. Fifty-five percent of the respondents stated that the lack of information constitutes between 1 and 10% of the total delay in construction.
Figure 12 Time required to reply to information requests
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Table 8 Lack of information delay (consultant’ respondents view)

Percentage of the lack of information delay in total delay 0% 1 - 10% 11 - 30% 31 - 50% Over 50% Don’t know

Percentage of Contractor’ respondents 9% 55% 18% 0% 9% 9%

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Presentatio n on the Internet 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 9% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Video Animation

Rendered Images

2-D Drawings

Face to face meetings

4-D CAD

Physical models

VRML

VR

Collaboration with the site team in solving design problems: Consultant’ respondents were asked how often they work with the site team in solving design problems that arise on site. Eighty-two percent (see Figure 13) of the respondents stated that they frequently work with the site team to for this purpose. The effect of computer visualisation on communication: Figure 1 shows that 46% of the respondents think that computer visualisation could have little effect on communication during construction stage. Eighteen percent of the respondent think that visualisation could improve communication a lot. These were those respondents who have used computer visualisation tools at some stage of design.
Figure 14 Collaboration with site team
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Figure 13 Possible effects of visualisation on communication (consultants’ view)
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5. DISCUSSION
The industry survey questionnaires concerning buildability problems that most frequently occur during the construction process and the methods used to clarify information have been presented. Interfaces between components and difficult assembly, as buildability area problems, were widely experienced by respondents, especially with cladding, service installations, roof, and stairs. Traditional methods and tools such as 2-D drawings are the most common methods and tools used for communicating information related to buildability between design and site teams. These tools have drawbacks that make them not adequate and not fast enough in communicating requests for information. Construction teams collaborate with designers in solving design problems when they occur. These results show that the use of computer visualisation and communication in communicating buildability information is very low. The respondents thought that delays and lack of adequate information during the construction process might contribute as much as 21-30% towards the total delay of a project. The contractor and consultant respondents, who had used some visualisation tools, realised the benefits that could be gained. Therefore they thought that the use of visualisation would improve buildability information communication during the construction process.

6. CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK
This paper discussed the results of the industry survey questionnaire, which is part of an on-going research project aiming to investigate the use of computer visualisation to communicate design information related to buildability during the construction stage. It can be concluded from the analysis of the survey questionnaire that the traditional tools

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are not adequate to communicate design information to site personnel. It may cut costs of construction by simply considering how components are assembled together. Effective communication tools can improve collaboration between construction and design practitioners. An in-depth study of the buildability problems is on going involving interviews with several site teams and design practitioners. After analysing the results of the interviews, a survey and review of software that can be used in the project will be carried out. A system for visualisation and communication will be developed. This system should facilitate collaboration between design and construction teams in solving design problems that may occur during construction. In addition to that the system may help in introducing contractors to participate in the design process which will enable designers to benefit from contractors experience. Finally, the proposed system will be evaluated and a demonstrated to practitioners for feedback and refinement.
REFERENCES Egan, J., 1998, Rethinking Construction: report of the construction task force on the scope for improving the quality and the efficiency of UK construction, London: Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions. Ferguson, I. 1989, Buildability in Practice, Mitchell, London Ganah, A. Anumba, J. and Bouchlaghem, 2000, The Use of Visulisation to Communicate Design Information to Construction Sites, ARCOM 16th Annual Conference, Glasgow. Gorse, C., Emmitt, S, and Lowis, M., 1999, Problem Solving and Appropriate Communication Medium, ARCOM 15th annual Conference, Liverpool. Griffith, A.,1984 , Buildability: The Effect of Design and Management on Construction, HeriotWatt University. Haransky, S., 1999, Maximising Profit through Client Satisfaction: Avoiding the deadly Sins, Journal of Management in Engineering, Nov-Dec. 1999. Hassan, Z., 1997, CONPLAN: Construction Planning and Buildability evaluation in an Integrated and Intelligent Construction Environment (BL), Unpublished PhD thesis, Salford University. Jergeas, G., 1989, Detailed Design and Constructability, Unpublished PhD thesis, Loughborough university. Latham, M., 1994, Constructing the Team: Joint Review of Procurement and Contractual Arrangements in the United Kingdom Construction Industry: Final Report, H.M.S.O., London. Moore, D., 1998, Analysis Skills for Production Strategies: The use of Buildability and System Tools, Oxford, Chandos, Russell, J., Swiggum, K., Shapiro, J. and Alaydrus, A., 1994, Constructability Related to TQM, Value Engineering, and Cost/Benefits, Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.31-45. Talbert, N. 1997, Toward Human Central Systems, IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE computer Society, Los Alamitos, Vol. 17 No. 4,pp21-27. Gallagher, R. S., 1994, Computer Visualisation, Graphic techniques, CRC Press, Boca Raton. Rodriguez, W., 1992, The Modelling of Design Ideas, Graphics and Visualisation Techniques for Engineers, McGraw Hill, New York, 1992. Bertol, D., 1997, Designing Digital Space: An Architects Guide to VR, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York. Li, H.,& Love, P.E.D., 1998 Visualisation of Building Interior Design to Reduce Rework, Proceeding of 1998 IEEE Conference on Information Visualisation in London, IEEE Computer Society, Los Alamitos, 29-31 July 1998, pp187-191.


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