Knowledge management for bridge design process using building block concept

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Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Building Technology
Degree programme
Master's Programme in Building Technology (CIV)
This thesis explores the concept of building blocks in the context of structural design within the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. The building block concept refers to the pieces of design knowledge from previous projects in the form of digital files that can be assembled and reused in future structural bridge projects. These building blocks consist of multiple types of file used in bridge design. The goal of the building block is to utilize the accumulated knowledge created from previous design projects to increase productivity and design quality of future ones. With that in mind, the thesis aims to establish the foundational theories of the building block concept in the knowledge management field, develop a conceptual framework, and create a proof-of-concept system. Literature in knowledge base development and knowledge reuse in the context of AEC design showed that reusing design knowledge requires both the knowledge content and the context surrounding it, which can be measured through the dimensions of abstraction and granularity. Both dimensions determine how relevant and reusable knowledge is to different users. The author concluded that the building block concept requires multiple levels of abstraction and granularity since no single level of context is adequate to cover all engineering knowledge. Moreover, the context information must be provided to different user's needs during the knowledge retrieval process by providing different browsing and querying interfaces. The implementation of the building block concept was done through the development of an ontological Expert System, capable of modeling the complex knowledge in structural design. The development focused on 2 stages: creating an informal model and translating that model to a machine-readable ontology. The informal model used the Icam DEFinition for Function Modeling (IDEF0) modeling method to represent the information requirements of the bridge design process. The build-ing blocks became the Inputs, Controls, Outputs, and Mechanisms (ICOM) of a design process. The ICOMs could be shared between different design processes, providing connection, relationships, and context information by association. This is the basis for the bridge design process assembly. The IDEF0 model was translated into the OWL language using Protégé to become a proof-of-concept. It demonstrated the extraction of building blocks associated with design processes through Protégé’s inferencing and querying capability with additional user inputs.
Lin, Weiwei
Thesis advisor
LeCoultre, Sean
IDEF0, knowledge management, bridge design, ontology, expert system, building block
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