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NSF-PATH Research

 Research Projects

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Process Connectors: Supporting Information Transactions Between Residential Construction Processes

University of Florida

* William J. O'Brien, Principal Investigator
* Ronald R. Wakefield, Co-Principal Investigator

Start: September 15, 2003
Expires: August 31, 2006


The residential construction industry has changed markedly in recent years; yet the information transfer between in participants has remained relatively unchanged. Most builders now work with a large team of suppliers and subcontractors to accomplish construction. The result of the increased number of participants (and associated variation in sophistication) has been significant lapses in communication and coordination. The degree of fragmentation also makes implementation of IT support difficult with existing technologies. Hence, much of the coordination tasks and data sharing continues to be performed manually with paper documents. The cost of such manual processes in terms of time, errors, and rework has been well documented by studies undertaken by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In response to these structural and information issues, this proposal identifies the development of process connectors to increase information usability and applicability to all participants of what is a very complex supply and installation chain. A process connector links processes and data resident in one firm with processes and data in another firm. It provides an explicit way of articulating information about a firm's internal processes. This allows industry participants to understand what information other participants require from them and how other participants use that information.

The project objectives are to generate the necessary theory and understandings to enable the rapid and consistent generation of process connectors in the residential construction industry. Specific deliverables are an extension and meta-extension of the Industry Foundation Classes to support process connection as well as a series of documented test cases.

To guide the development and testing the research team will collaborate with the residential construction industry throughout the project. Collaboration with industry provides directed opportunities to foster the educational objectives of the grant to involve students in the research and to develop examples and systems for classroom pedagogy.

The research is expected to be of broad significance as management of many interacting processes is one of the most challenging and expensive aspects of housing construction. The potential contributions to the annual $320 billion residential construction industry are large even if the work is only partially successful. Further, the information management challenges of residential projects are representative of challenges in other domains (e.g., other AEC projects, shipbuilding, custom manufacturing, etc.). Hence, the proposed project promises development of significant theory and understandings applicable process coordination challenges in many industries.

View additional details on this NSF award.

Content updated on 3/18/2004

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