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UBC Reports | Vol. 46 | No. 15 | October 05, 2000

Engineers aim to build data bridges

The building industry contributes about 12 per cent to Canada's national economy and employs more than 850,000 workers, but it is fragmented by the use of diverse, incompatible data standards and protocols. UBC researchers are doing something about it. Current industry practice has designers, architects, engineers and building contractors employing computer-based tools that require information to be translated by humans before it can be used in each of the different computer platforms.

For example, after a building designer uses computer-assisted design (CAD) software to render a structure for construction, engineers then use that information to test the building's structural soundness. But before they can use the CADinformation in their computers, they must re-enter the data in a format that their applications understand. This data re-entry can lead to errors and delays. To combat this, Civil Engineering Assoc. Prof. Thomas Froese has received a three-year $618,750 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for an international research project aimed at reducing the amount of human intervention required in sharing building information. The results could lead to improvements in building efficiency and more accurate estimates in tendering for work by those in a relatively low-margin business. "When you build a building, a lot of the process happens before a shovel goes into the ground," says Froese. "The bulk of that has to do with information handling. Problems in a building project often have to do with information breakdowns -- wrong information, late information."

Froese says a common data standard would help speed up the adoption of new information technology.

He and Civil Engineering Dept. Head Alan Russell are collaborating with researchers from the National Research Council, the University of New Brunswick, Concordia University, Ryerson University, and Public Works and Government Services Canada on the project. Stanford University, the United States Corps of Engineers and the International Alliance for Interoperability will also be involved.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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