Within Companies the major advances are the development of local area networks, Intranets, and better procedures for document management, archive and retrieval. The use of a company wide intranet greatly improves communication for any business, and for construction companies this is especially important. The industry is fragmented, consisting of many small ‘teams’ within one company all working in vastly different locations. Intranets provide the ability to ensure teams know company objectives, processes and procedures, and can draw on company wide resources by putting individuals in touch with the experience of other people and projects.
A company intranet promotes knowledge sharing by hosting forums where people can ask questions and have discussions that may be of benefit for the whole company. 3. 0 Between Companies Between companies the use of e-mail, extranets and wide area networks have increased the amount of e-business that construction companies get actively involved in. E-business gives construction companies the ability to market their products and services and manage information effectively on web based systems.
Electronic Mail ensures that the transfer of information happens efficiently and provides an information trail. 4. 0 Design Hand drawing of designer information is long since a thing of the past. The design aspect of Information Technology was one of the first to be adopted by the construction Industry. While many other areas of the industry with the potential to realise great benefits were not doing so, computer aided design was enabling architects to produce drawings and schedules which could be modified and expanded upon quickly and conveniently.
The use of IT at the design stage of a construction project is increasingly becoming a fundamental requirement if the industry is ever going to achieve significant performance gains. A better understanding of the client’s requirements can be achieved through the use of visualisation techniques and by using specification software applications to create project documentation. This could radically improve the process of tendering.
Clients want better information to run their buildings once they are built, but they will only get this economocally if it is provided at the start of the construction process, by the designers and amended during the building process Computer based design tools are much further developed from the simple two dimensional geometric systems first introduced. Designers can now produce 360o views and animated walkthroughs to scrutinise a design in greater detail or enable clients to visualise concepts. Introduction
Design and analysis software packages are available for use by the design engineer to assist with / replace hand calculations performed during the design of a structure. These packages can be used to perform complex calculations in a reduced time period. Analysis software packages are used to determine the effects of loading on structural elements, the output from these packages can be used to manually check the compliance of the sections used in the analysis against the requirements of the applicable British Standard e. g. BS5950 for steel.
Design software packages can be used to electronically check the compliance of the specified sections for the structural elements against the requirements given in the applicable British Standard. Software packages for the design of details (e. g. steel connections) are also available. Both 2 and 3 dimensional packages are available, allowing single elements and complete structural frames to be considered. When considering complete structures, models representing complex structural configurations can be created and their associated structural analysis may be performed.
Structural design and analysis has also made great advances reducing the time required for detailed calculations, checking the effects of loads within a design and electronically checking the compliance of the structural elements with British Standards. The ability to layer drawings has also improved the process of coordination between different design team members or trades within a project. Clashes are easily picked up and dealt with in the design stage reducing the need for expensive consultations and changes during the construction stage.
Pre-planning is become much less laborious and uncertain. 3D modelling of building services: 33 Old Broad Street (IT028) Case Study Building Centre Trust In this office development, the project team found that producing a three-dimensional integrated central project model of the structure and services of the building during the design phase can have significant benefits for co-ordination and construction. This case study demonstrates how 3D modelling of services can transform the procurement of building services on certain projects.
It also demonstrates good practice in the engagement of CAD design services specialists. This case study will be of benefit to clients, designers, construction managers, building services engineers and building 5. 0 Within Projects Again e-mail has promoted a much greater flow of information within project teams. But the most affective IT tool for a modern construction project is that of an Extranet or Project Collaboration system. 5. 1 Project Collaboration Systems These are web based tools which allow all members of a project to view, upload, download, comment, and issue drawings and documents.
Project extranets are introduced for a variety of reasons such as reducing copying costs, speeding up information flows, providing audit trails and ensuring all members of the project team are working from the latest information available. E-Contracts. As technology comes to be used in the planning and implementation of projects, e-mail communications can lead to contractual commitments being undertaken and, in the worst case scenario, contractual obligations may be undertaken unwittingly.
There is still a worryingly high number of employees who mistakenly believe that e-mail communications cannot, due to their nature, give rise to binding legal obligations because of the nature of e-mail. This is certainly not the case: indeed, as English law is happy to recognise that there may be an oral binding contract, there is no problem in principle over clear e-mail communications giving rise to a contract. It is therefore important that strict, informative IT and e-mail use policies are in place.
Related essay: Internet, intranet and extranet on business
For more information on common pitfalls in the use of e-mail, see article E-Defamation. In addition to potential contractual problems, e-mail is a notoriously quick and informal means of communication and has given rise to a number of well-publicised defamation actions. Notwithstanding the potential attractions of e-construction, it is a fact that the large number of potential technology suppliers has dwindled in the past couple of years as venture capital funding has dried up and many financial backers have concluded that potential profits are too long term in nature.