Digital library of construction informatics
and information technology in civil engineering and construction


Paper w78-1999-2609:
A semantically rich reference model for building design

Facilitated by the SciX project

Brien M J O', Baig A

A semantically rich reference model for building design

Abstract: Much effort has been expended by software developers attempting to build databases suitable for use by those working within the construction industry. Various models from the original RATAS relational database model through to sophisticated process models have been proposed, developed and evaluated. It is probably fair to say that these research efforts have only recently begun to effect the practices of professional construction engineers. This, in part, is due to the need for more sophisticated systems. This paper describes a database that is usable throughout the design and construction processes in the construction industry. The method uses the well-established idea of generic components that can be combined to create a large scale artefact. The novelty of the approach described herein allows the components to embody facts and rules that allow design knowledge to be modelled, captured and retrieved. The facts and rules encapsulate not only the interactions of the various products but also the processes involved in their use. In effect, the atomic primitive elements (both components and rules) can be combined to create complex elements which are semantically rich. The basic ideas and fundamental philosophy of this approach have been described elsewhere. This paper is devoted to describing the detailed implementation of this approach. The content is technical and thorough; it describes how a passive relational database management system, Oracle, has been used to create a new metadata structure for the creation, control and management of the components - both simple and complex. In effect, the relational database becomes active. Thus, the database reacts to design decisions by firing rules which then govern the interaction of the components. The paper presents a detailed description of the underlying architecture and the data model which has been developed. The paper is interesting not only to construction engineers but also to software designers in that it shows how existing database models can be extended by using their predefined data types to create new, and more complex, ones. While this is an old, well-established trick, this application to a real-world problem is a good test of its viability. Finally, a brief review puts this particular approach into the context of the other myriad attempts to create product and process reference models with an evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses.



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Series: w78:1999 (browse)
Cluster: papers of the same cluster (result of machine made clusters)
Class: class.analysis (0.047518) class.man-software (0.016724) class.store (0.013661)
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Permission to reproduce these papers has been graciously provided by the Research Press of the National Research Council of Canada. The support of the editors, particularly Dr. Dana Vanier, is gratefully appreciated.


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