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
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
"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
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.