Abstract Information about products for the construction industry is increasingly often provided to designers in digital ways that enable them to apply the information directly in the design process. Digital product catalogues are provided using various media and formats and several initiatives are taken by the industry and by CAD developers to integrate this kind of information into CAD systems. Generally, current practice is to distribute the information to designers, for example, by using CD-ROMs or a website where the information can be downloaded. In our research, we recognise that distributing information in this manner detaches it from the business processes in the construction supply chain, which is a major disadvantage. The project presented in this paper concerns the implementation in the Dutch construction industry of a methodology for sharing product information through a distributed object model. The methodology, which is called Concept Modelling, forms a generic basis for the support of collaborative design, but is applied in this project to the integration of information from the supply chain in the design process. Through the distributed object model, design information and product information can be integrated while the actual data objects remain at their source. This enables the supply chain to provide information of a high semantic level to designers while keeping the control over the information and maintaining the relationship of the information with their business processes. The advantages of this approach in which information is shared, rather than exchanged, are numerous. Redundancy of information is minimised, consistency is improved, and updated information is available immediately. Moreover, design and construction processes can benefit significantly from the dynamic aspects of accessing information that is tied to business processes in the supply chain. For example, product selection during design can be based on latest information on product details, prices, production methods, and variants of products. This information can be provided to designers automatically and on demand.
Leeuwen, van, J. P., & Zee, van der, A. (2005). Distributed object models for collaboration in the construction industry. Automation in Construction, 14(4), 491-499. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2004.09.004