Nature and nurture - sustainability in the built environment

Scholar explores knowledge management

Visualising construction through automation

Mission 2 - Visit by Dutch Government Delegation

CIB co-sponsoring International Conference

Brisbane City Council jumps aboard for sustainability

Making a publishing difference

Arrivals and departures

Construction Innovation partners: Australian Building Codes Board, Arup Australasia, Bovis Lend Lease, Brisbane City Council, Building Commission (Victoria), CSIRO, John Holland, Qld Dept Main Roads, Qld Dept Public Works, Qld Dept State Development, Qld University of Technology, Rider Hunt, RMIT, Brookwater JV, University of Newcastle, University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, DEM, Woods Bagot

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by John McCarthy, Chairman, CRC Construction Innovation

Theres confusion in this industry. No doubt about it. Take our greenspace. A plethora of government and private sector bodies have been tackling building-related sustainability issues in Australias greenspace for a number of years and through a variety of initiatives. This is good. However, these initiatives are operating using different methodologies, performance benchmarks and underlying databases which have the potential to create confusion within the industry.

Did I say potential? They are creating confusion. Take a look at some facts. There are numerous sustainability tools currently available or under development in Australia. To name a few examples: NABERS (National Australian Building Environment Rating System), BASIX (Building Sustainability Index), the Green Star Rating Tool, ABGR (Australian Building Greenhouse Rating Scheme) and the Sustainable Housing Code, are all adding confusion within industry and the community as to what the clear definition of sustainability is as it relates to building construction.

In addition to this, there are numerous definitions attempting to embody the concept of sustainability in State and Territory built environment legislation, none of which totally align but all of which have one thing in common: ecologically sustainable development.

In this increasingly complex environment, there have been murmurs in the industry suggesting the need for strong national leadership in the implementation of building-related sustainability issues.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation responded to this undercurrent and in October 2003, brought together the major players in Australias greenspace to discuss the development and adoption of a national framework to address sustainability and the built environment.

And in what might be described as a miracle by some players in the industry, this group has continued to meet and refine its objectives to progress the national framework concept.

I am delighted to be the interim Chair for this new beginning.

The Steering Committee is part of a larger group known as the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), who will take a national leadership role on sustainability in a set of key areas that are currently being canvassed within ASBEC. The next newsletter will report on the key focus areas ASBEC has identified.

Its a small step for a big picture. And at this stage, it is still hard to believe we managed to bring together both government and the private sector in one room to discuss that most esoteric of concepts sustainability and the built environment.

But we have. And there is great optimism. In the Year of the Built Environment it is, perhaps, the most important initiative we could be involved in.

For more information on ASBEC, email Jack Bramwell (ABCB) or Peter Newton (Construction Innovation).

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Construction Innovation Scholar Tayyab Maqsood is undertaking his PhD through the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne. He talks about his research.

Knowledge management is a fast growing area of research and holds a key to the future knowledge revolution and knowledge economy. With particular emphasis on the construction industry, knowledge management has a great role to play in producing and supporting innovation.

Innovation is about putting great ideas into practice. Unfortunately, very few studies have been undertaken to unleash the potential of knowledge management explicitly for the construction Industry.

My proposition, which I hope to prove through qualitative research, is that successful implementation of knowledge management strategies can turn construction organisations into Learning Organisations, which would then be in better shape and more equipped to produce innovations for the benefit of the construction industry.

I concede that to adopt knowledge management industry-wide, emphasis should lie not only with big organisations at the delivery end of the supply chain, but also with all the trading partners in the supply chain, i.e. suppliers and subcontractors. I strongly believe that meshing knowledge management concepts within supply chain management would give the property and construction industry a new modus-operandi, with the ability to minimise or eliminate wasteful business processes and resources, reduce conflicts among trading partners, lower overall cost of projects and improve quality of products.

I have selected Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) as a basic research tool to carry out my investigations. The outcome of my research will be models of knowledge management intertwined with innovation concepts and organisational learning to transform an organisation into a learning organisation.

My PhD topic is An investigation into the role of knowledge management in supporting innovation for effective planning and delivery of construction projects, and through its own objectives, is very much integrated with the Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation research project Knowledge Management and Innovation Diffusion, lead by Professor Derek Walker, Professor of Project Management at RMIT. I expect to complete the PhD in August 2005.

To learn more about this research, please email Tayyab Maqsood.

Tayyab is a Civil Engineer with Masters of Engineering Degree in Construction Engineering and Management from Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. His Masters thesis A Qualitative Exploration of Construction Site Managers Problem Solving Processes was graded as Excellent. He was also awarded with prestigious award for his outstanding performance in Masters Degree by AIT. Tayyab has worked in Pakistan, Thailand, UK and Hong Kong in various capacities as lecturer, project engineer and research associate over the last 8 years. He is also a member of various professional organisations such as IEAust., AIB and ASCE. His other research interests include High Strength/High Performance Concrete, Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) Bars/Plates as structural reinforcement, Project Management, Risk Management, Partnering, Information Communication Technologies (ICT), Supply Chain Management, Information Visualisation and Virtual Reality.The outcomes in his candidature so far include10 refereed publications (7 refereed conference, 2 journal and one chapter) either published, accepted or in the press.

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The benefits of involving contractors earlier in the building procurement process are being increased through the Contract Planning Workbench research project currently being undertaken through the Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation.

Contract Planning Workbench is working on ways of animating the building construction process so that designers and contactors can assess the time required to construct a building, the proposed construction sequence, and the identification of clashes between proposed activities. Such animation would allow a visual review of the construction process from other perspectives, such as Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).

The overarching aim of the project is to provide more certainty to the client, the designers and the contractors that their goals can be met. Traditionally, designers prepare the documentation of the building or civil structures. The contractors then prepare several construction plans. A high level construction plan may be prepared during the tendering stage for estimators to check that adequate resources are available to complete the project on time. Once a contract is won, construction plans with three levels of detail are normally developed: a high level plan covering the entire project, a plan covering the activities for the following month, and a detailed plan considering the activities to be undertaken over the next seven days. These would describe the personnel, materials and equipment needed to construct the building, when they must be available and for how long.

Recent innovations in procurement methods however allow contractors to be involved earlier in the process. This means that construction planners may prepare construction plans throughout the design process, as well as the construction process. Indeed, in the preparation of bids for design/construct type contracts, teams may even go so far as to prepare visual simulations of the construction sequence to demonstrate to clients how their dreams may be realised.

It is well known that construction planning and scheduling of construction activities is a time consuming and error prone process where many factors need to be considered simultaneously. Conversely, analyses have shown that visualising the sequence of construction reduces planning errors and improves the performance of inexperienced construction planners significantly (Songer, Diekmann & Karet, 2001) (Songer et al, 2001).

In light of this evidence, Contract Planning Workbench is examining the issues that arise when a team uses animation to support automation of the construction planning process, under the umbrella objective of creating a more efficient construction planning process. The aim is to provide support during the construction planning process by supplying relevant information in an understandable way to planners.

This project is using two new technologies as the basis for its work. The project is examining the use of IFCs (Industry Foundation Classes) as a method of exporting and importing object-based information between design and construction software as a key factor allowing teams to move from proprietary methods of information exchange to generic information interoperability. The second technology being examined by the project is the use of 4D CAD (3 dimensions plus time) simulations.

The Contract Planning Workbench project is building a bridge between IFC objects and the existing 4D CAD software. An IFC file, produced in standard CAD applications, is used as input to the process. The result is a project plan and a 3D model of the building project which can be read in to either Bentley Navigator or CommonPoint. These programs provide 4D animations of the construction of the building. This allows the user to visualise the construction process and simplifies the identification of improvements and problems in the proposed plan.

CRC for Construction Innovation partners John Holland and Woods Bagot are providing necessary industry experience to Contract Planning Workbench. CSIRO and the University of Newcastle are the research partners. The Centre for Integrated Facility Engineering at Stanford University is also an external collaborator

Automation of the planning of activities on building construction sites could well be the future, soon.

For more information on this research, contact the Project Leader Robin Drogemuller.

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A Dutch Government delegation came to Australia for 3 days on 17 February 2004 for what they described as Mission 2 to talk to the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Construction Innovation and others about Australias experience of reform initiatives in the building and construction sector.
Dr Keith Hampson, CEO of CRC for Construction Innovation, based at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, said he is not surprised Australias model of industry development has created international interest.

The Dutch see our property and construction industry development model as very good, and Australias Construction Innovation as unique, Dr Hampson said.

This is not the first time Australias CRC model has generated international interest, and they were looking for lessons to learn from us, he said.

Australias CRC for Construction Innovation began in July 2001 following recommendations in the Federal Governments Action Agenda of the late 90s for the establishment of an applied research and development (R&D) centre for Australias property and construction sector.

In its short life, Construction Innovation has become known as a national leader in applied R&D, with 28 research projects, 20 of which are completing this year.

The Dutch delegation was composed of George Ang (Deputy Director of Design and Engineering, Dutch Government Building Agency), and Jan van Oorschot (Managing Director of Business Development, Royal Volker Wessel Stevin Group) and Roger Courtney (Consultant in construction innovation).

Dr Keith Hampson says the Australian CRC model of industry, government and research collaboration has worked extremely well in the property and construction industry.

Without committed industry input into research, development management and diffusion of results, and without industrys commitment to continue to drive collaboration and linkages nationally and internationally, Construction Innovation would cease to have a purpose, Dr Hampson said.

This is what the Dutch learnt from us - that a model of industry development and collaboration is a key to reform.

And what did Construction Innovation learn from the Dutch?

We can use their industry example as a reminder to continue sharpening Construction Innovations focus in R&D and national initiatives so that our Australian partners and industry gain even greater opportunities to leverage internationally, Dr Hampson said. 

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The Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation is delighted to announce CIB (International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction) as co-sponsors of our first International Conference themed Clients Driving Innovation, scheduled for 25 to 27 October 2004 in Brisbane, Australia.

CIB is a premier international forum for building and construction research based in Europe and with a life to date of 50 years.

Drawing on the experiences of leading practitioners and researchers in the international built environment, including property and construction industry clients, facility designers and constructors, and facility managers, our International Conference Clients Driving Innovation will offer a meeting place where ideas can be exchanged, collaborations established and knowledge gained.

Using leading research examples of industry practice, issues to be addressed include the ability of clients to drive innovation through their purchasing power, through documentation standards, and through developing regulations and codes.

Click here to find out more information on this conference. Visit www.construction-innovation.info for news updates.

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On 1 January 2004 Brisbane City Council (BCC) joined the Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation, taking the number of partners involved in Construction Innovation up to a healthy 19 across industry, government and research institutions.

BCC has given a three year commitment to Construction Innovation's research program, and has a particular interest in helping shape research projects to suit its specific needs. As a partner, BCC will be able to access research outcomes from all program areas in Construction Innovation, including Business and Industry Development, Sustainable Built Assets, and Delivery and Management of Built Assets. However, BCC's immediate interests lie particularly with code and policy related projects, urban environments, life cycle/built asset management and advanced applications of ICT.

BCC have also gained Board representation in their new partner status, and have appointed Divisional Manager of City Business, Noel Faulkner, to the Construction Innovation Board, and Judy Kraatz, Group Manager - The Architecture Group, City Design as a Research Committee member.  

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Construction Innovation final research reports (including 'Sustainability and the Building Code of Australia') can now be found on our website under 'Publications'.

In addition, media releases and published articles (in industry magazines, scientific journals, newspapers and newsletters) are now available electronically on our website for your perusal. View articles we have had published in New Scientist, National Building News Monthly, FM, Property Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, and many other respected publications, from since our Centre began in July 2001, right up to the minute in 2004.

For all Construction Innovation publications, visit www.construction-innovation.info 

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Construction Innovation welcomes Colleen Foelz (Communications Officer) and Yvonne Gilbert (Administration Officer, Education) to the team. Our thanks and best wishes go to Kate Finlayson and Michelle Coillet for their valuable contributions to the organisation.

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