An ethnographically informed analysis of design intent communication in BIM-enabled architectural practice
Abdelmohsen, Sherif Morad Abdelkader
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The building information model (BIM) is assumed to encompass all the required parameters, rules and attributes about a design product and process for Architecture-Engineering-Construction (AEC) practitioners in a way that is comprehendible by all participants sharing the model and that communicates their needs and intentions. The socio-cognitive day-to-day interactions that occur in the workplace imply however that there are discrepancies between what is exchanged as design information when sharing a model and what is exchanged as goals, needs and possibly conflicting intentions and interests when sharing a common ill-structured problem. The findings of an ethnographic study are presented. The study investigates affordances and limitations in BIM-enabled practice regarding the communication of design intent among design teams in the context of an architectural project. Grounded theory coding was used as a basis for analytic induction through constant comparison and examination of data from field observation, interviews and design meetings, to identify emergent conceptual categories central to the research inquiry. A "thick description" was provided that took into account the dynamic interactions among teams, including interdisciplinary, intradisciplinary and non-disciplinary interaction. By dissecting hypothetical models of shared project information offered by BIM, the dissertation identified interfaces of information exchange, states of the BIM model as a boundary object, and emergent and overlapping communities of practice that delineate the degree of completeness and correctness of a BIM model and describe its effectiveness in capturing and conveying the intent of participants upon interaction. To draw parallels to other contexts, the assumptions central to the study were discussed in relation to a spectrum of possible scenarios within the larger population of AEC firms. In light of the findings and "persona" descriptions identified in the study, the dissertation examined and proposed amendments and richer descriptions to existing surveys and market reports that address the use and benefits of BIM in the AEC industry, including topics such as the internal business value of BIM, top ways to improve value of BIM, and impact of project factors on BIM value.