IT Support for the Design Process in a Multi-actor Environment
Corresponding Author: Rezgui, Yacine
Author(s): Rezgui, Y., Cooper, G., and Brandon, P.
Organisation(s): University of Salford (UK)
Information management emerged recently as a new discipline in its own right. However, despite the interest and the effort put by many researchers and leading companies into information management, the discipline is still in its infancy, and does not seem to take fully advantage of the latest IT development. The main reason for that probably is due to the very nature of the construction industry, involving geographically dispersed virtual teams that are formed for projects, and are then broken apart on completion. 

In order to support actors in the design process, it is important not only to share information, but also to manage that information in a manner that actively promotes integration. That is, in fact, the overall objective of the COMMIT project. The COMMIT project aims at defining mechanisms to handle a number of issues relating to the management of information to support decision-making in collaborative projects.

Decisions made during the design stage are multi-dimensional, combining together factors which range from the highly subjective to the perfectly objective. The decisions are made by many individuals often belonging to different organisations and having different skills and training. These decisions are made over very long periods of time in an iterative manner and are commonly revisited weeks, months and even years after they were originally taken. There is considerable potential for misunderstandings, inappropriate changes, changes which give rise to unforeseen difficulties, decisions which are not notified to all interested parties, and many other similar problems.

COMMIT uses the latest Information Technology techniques to provide an information management system which addresses these problems. Essentially COMMIT records decisions and the reasoning behind those decisions in a manner appropriate to decision making in a design process. That is to say it allows for many versions of designed features either simultaneously or in sequence. It does not prescribe a decision making sequence which is left to the design team, but provides an infrastructure through which they can ensure that all members of the team can be aware of decisions, who made them and when as well as why. 

This paper gives an overview of the COMMIT project and emphasizes its contribution to the information management research in the field of Computer Integrated Construction. The paper also highlights the limitations of the COMMIT project from the very complex architectural design perspective, and introduces the research from the BeyondCommit project that aims at demonstrating the COMMIT issues on a real construction project using an industry CAD package (MicroStation, from Bentley Systems).

The COMMIT project has benefited from the support of a well-established steering group comprising standardization bodies, industrials and researchers. The project is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom.