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Improving the management of structural engineering requirements in the design phase

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In the building industry requirements are the basis of a project and they address general aspects such as overall goals, activities, and needs of the client, as well as very detailed characteristics of the product such as materials or special conditions. Therefore, the lack of established requirements management practices within a project bears many risks, amongst which the of loss of valuable information and the risk of not complying with the initially defined project objectives. When looking into the structural engineering field, and more specifically into the domain of building structures, the inefficiency in the design handover processes becomes apparent and it can be attributed to both the absence of practices related to requirements specification and record, as well as to the disjointedness between geometry, project documentation, and requirements. Therefore, this thesis firstly investigates which engineering requirements are fundamental in a building structures project and constitute the core of the final engineering design handover to external parties. Secondly, the thesis explores the possibilities of achieving a certain level of integration between requirements data, 3D modeling data, and project documentation for the validation of the design’s conformity with the requirements. Due to the inability of the BIM/IFC approach to fully support the collaboration processes within a project and to provide explicit connections between the aforementioned information sources, a Linked Data approach for targeting the shortcomings of the current management practices has been implemented in the form of a desktop viewer. Based on a previously formalized requirements ontology, the tool enables the semantic mapping between engineering requirements and object instances from the 3D model. It provides the functionality of proving the compliance of model instances with the requirements by creating semantic connections to the calculation reports which justify the objects’ conformity with the requirements. As the created solution represents an initial effort for requirements formalization and for interoperability of requirements-relevant data for the engineering design phase of a project, it also creates a prerequisite for future research into the possibilities for a collective approach to the management of requirements, involving all design parties in a building structures project.

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