Construction project management, Knowledge management systems (ontology, semantic systems, process management); Infrastructure management systems (asset management, sustainable construction); Context sensitive design (value analysis, constructability analysis)
Education and Designations
BSc., MSc. (Zagazig, Egypt)
|Course Code||Title & Description||Instructor||Session||Location(s)||Day(s)||Start Time||End|
|CIV1299H F||Prof. Tamer El-Diraby||Fall 2016||GB 248||Tuesdays||15:00||17:00|
|CIV420H1||Prof. Tamer El-Diraby||Fall 2016||Scheduled by the Office of the Faculty Registrar.|
My research work focuses on knowledge engineering in construction management with a focus on integrated civil infrastructure systems. Within this scope, my research agenda covers knowledge engineering in three major domains: construction engineering/constructability analysis, information systems, and sustainable construction. The agenda also covers two related (minor) domains: smart systems and construction business practice. Within these domains, my research spans three main thrusts of knowledge engineering: knowledge acquisition (understanding and documenting industry best practices and problems), knowledge modeling (developing formal reusable models of construction systems), and knowledge management (systems to infuse knowledge into decision making).
The construction industry has one of the lowest rates of IT/e-business implementations. Given the nature of the industry (especially its labour-intensive nature), I believe that integrating knowledge management (KM) with e-business tools is what is needed to foster a breakthrough in the usability of information systems in the industry. This belief was fostered by the following drivers:
- The shift from IT to KM: KM goes beyond software interoperability and e-business transactions to encompass the modeling of human knowledge (both tacit and explicit), developing advanced work processes that encapsulate the wisdom of past mistakes (with an emphasis on human interaction over software automation), and the consistent harnessing of best practices to support continuous improvements. On the technical level, the desire for advanced KM tools is supporting a shift from traditional Web technology to semantic Web technologies (ontology-based systems).
- The emergence of neo IT research: Traditional IT research has focused on the engineering (design, in particular) aspects of projects. The evolution of e-society and the knowledge economy is pushing for more emphasis on new domains such as sustainability and life cycle management, which are better addressed by KM tools.
- Globalization: Multinational organizations (in many cases, virtual) and projects are becoming an increasing reality in the construction industry. There is a pressing need for establishing means for managing the flow of information and knowledge and coordinating decisions in such organizations.
- The needs for managing information systems: With the plethora of ever-changing IT tools, organizations are in dire need for dynamic means for assuring interoperability among the usually heterogeneous systems used for business, engineering and administrative tasks. The ability to configure systems to particular project needs and the timely and efficient update of system configurations are now essential for the competitiveness of any organization in the new economy.
- From e-building to e-infrastructure: In contrast to building projects, infrastructure projects have larger scales, span a diversified set of disciplines, and have been characterized with lower levels of IT use. The deterioration of infrastructure systems and the interests of the private sector (local and global) for investments in infrastructure have created an opportunity for establishing what could be called as “e-infrastructure” (interoperable systems for managing design and construction).
Knowledge is a human-centered “mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of the knowers (Davenport and Prusak, 1998)”. One can recognize at least three dimensions to knowledge (Onions, and Orange, 2002):
- “The known (ontology): what is known.
- The knower (knowledge systems): The viewpoint and context introduced by the mind of the holder of what is known, the who, why and the where.
- Knowing (epistemology): The processes associated with knowing what is known, specific to the knower, the how and some of the why.”
 Davenport, T. H., and Prusak, L. (1998). “Working Knowledge, “Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
 Onions, P., and Orange, G. (2002). “The Three K’s: A model for knowledge that supports ontology and epistemology,” Working Paper—IMRIP 2002-12, School of Information Management, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.
My research mission is to support a breakthrough in the management of construction knowledge through a fundamental re-examination, modeling and implementation of industry-relevant knowledge with the objective of understanding infrastructure interdependency, achieving semantic interoperability among engineering and management systems, integrating design and construction, and ultimately, blending infrastructure systems in the fabric of its community.
In my view, a major premise of “urban engineering” is to design and manage civil engineering products (buildings and infrastructure) in an optimized, sustainable manner that takes into account the life cycle of products, their impacts on the environment, influence on local economy and interaction with local communities. To that end, I defined my role/contribution to urban engineering as exploiting R&D and teaching capacities to support the creation and management of a knowledge ecology in the infrastructure domain, where software, work processes, and the organizational culture support integrated, human-based generation and sharing of knowledge. The perceived outcome of this ecology are systems that support better understanding of the interdependencies between different infrastructure system, hence, produce more resilient infrastructure; quantification and integration of sustainability issues into the design of infrastructure; and creating collaborative knowledge-based mechanisms for decision making.
The main focus of my research agenda is on knowledge and IT tools as they relate to engineering and management processes in the infrastructure domain. It is important here to clarify that, while my research touches on the following domains, they are not part of my research agenda: computer applications in construction, construction simulation, and CAD data exchange standards.
My strategy in achieving this mission includes the following four major stages (see figure below):
Stage 1—Foundations of e-infrastructure: in this stage I focused on establishing a continuum of R&D and teaching activities to support KM in civil infrastructure. This phase created an interoperable semantic platform for construction knowledge and for interdependency in infrastructure systems; developed prototypical software (in virtual teaming, e-society and life cycle costing); and introduced KM concepts into new (or amended) courses.
Stage 2—The Centre for Information Systems in Infrastructure and Construction (i2c): this centre aims at establishing and industry-academia alliance for the infusion of advanced KM systems into coordinating the design and construction of infrastructure systems on a citywide scale.
Stage 3—Smart Organizations: while i2c is aimed at cross-jurisdiction collaboration, this stage aims at implementing advanced KM and corporate memory systems in individual organizations to achieve competitiveness on local and global levels.
Stage 4—Knowledge cities: the long term goal is to utilize R&D results to achieve full engagement of stakeholders in the sustainable, coordinated development of smart, optimized infrastructure.
In regards to stage 1 of my strategy, my main research accomplishment is the creation of a set of integrated semantic systems (ontology-based) for knowledge engineering and management in the infrastructure domain. The main focus of these systems is to assure interoperability among information systems and embedding interdependency in our knowledge models.
My work span three main thrusts of knowledge engineering: knowledge acquisition, knowledge modeling, and knowledge management (see Figure 1). These complementary thrusts help assure that the ontologies are based on practical (human-based) expertise (through knowledge acquisition); support the development of interoperable semantic models of industry knowledge (through knowledge modeling); and implement these models (through knowledge management tools) to support knowledge-based, collaborative decision making.
To be effective, KM systems have to be integrated in the organizational culture, encompass all business and technical processes, and engage all stakeholders. My research work, therefore, covered three major domains: construction engineering (to address the technical aspects of projects, especially during design), information systems (to optimize information flow and communication), and sustainable construction (to assure the consideration of environmental and community aspects). These three domains were supported with work on two additional (minor) domains: construction business (to assure all tools have “business value”) and smart systems (to support effective data collection).
The following notation has been used to indicate the status of my journal papers: published (P), submitted (S), ongoing (G), future papers (F). The Figure below shows a map of my research work in relationship to a matrix of knowledge engineering thrusts and relevant knowledge domains.
This research thrust focuses on active engagement with industry to solicit and formalize field problems and best practice. Throughout the last 5 years, my students and I have conducted interviews with more than 159 industry experts in various research projects. Work in this thrust also helped me develop a set of guidelines for designing research methodologies in field-based settings [P5]. The following research work was conducted within this thrust (across all five knowledge domains):
Constructability of Infrastructure Systems
Urban Bridge Constructability: during my study at the University of Texas at Austin, I worked with my supervisor, Prof. James T. O’Connor, on a research project with the Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT). The project included the rehabilitation of a 23 Km stretch of Highway 35 (including 23 bridges) in the heart of downtown Dallas, TX—a typical urban renewal project [P1].
Bridge Superstructure Rotation Construction Method: This project documented an innovative, environmentally friendly bridge construction technology and benchmarked its best practices in China. The study also developed a model for the constructability of the method [P13]. The study was conducted with help from my PhD student Zhang, J.
IT/KM Practice in the Construction Industry
Implementation of Construction IT: One of my MASc. students (Gill, S.) and I participated in a nationwide research project to map IT implementation at Canadian construction companies [P3].
KM Practices in Construction: This study documented/analyzed practitioners’ use of semantic web-based systems, including industry needs, best practices and the advantages of semantic systems [P16].
Public Consultation Practice: This research work was conducted through collaboration with the city of Toronto to analyze aspects of sustainable construction and means for engaging the public in project development [P19]. This study was conducted by two of my PhD students (El-Gohary, N. and Osman, H.) under my supervision.
The Business of Construction
Market Attractiveness and Company Competitiveness: to find their way to implementation, IT/KM tools have to make business sense and produce “value” to end users. This research work focused on modeling drivers for marketing/business strategies of contractors and the importance of KM/IT tools in the competitiveness of construction companies on local and global scales [P15]. This study was conducted by one of my undergraduate students (Do Couto, T.) and a research associate (Singh, S.).
Marketing Canadian Housing Products in Mexico: this work was conducted by my MASc student, Cariaga, I. and with collaboration from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Royal Industries to develop a model to assess the profitability of housing products in the Mexican market [S7].
Work in this thrust included modeling industry knowledge into practical systems, the development of a platform of interoperability in construction knowledge along with a set of formal ontologies for construction knowledge, and an integrated ontology for infrastructure interdependency:
A Model for Bridge Construction Planning: This model was developed as part of my PhD. research at the University of Texas at Austin. It was funded by the Texas Dept. of Transportation (total funds =$660,000). The model evaluates the effectiveness of bridge construction plans (BCP) through five major factors: Safety, Accessibility, Carrying Capacity, Schedule, and Budget. The model also included 22 subfactors to help evaluate these major factors with specific definitions of each sub-factor, their data sources and measurement techniques [P2].
The model, along with other research findings, was applied to more than ten bridge reconstruction projects in Dallas, TX and elsewhere. On one Dallas project, where the research team utilized the model, the schedule was cut in half, $1 million in hard costs were saved, and $36 million in user costs were eliminated. This research has garnered three national team awards in as many years: the Texas Quality Initiative Award, the National Value Engineering Award, and the National Quality Initiative Award.
Subsurface Utility Engineering: developed a cost model for the impacts and best practices of information reliability (through subsurface utility engineering) on the performance of infrastructure projects [S4]. This work was supported by NSERC, Toronto Sewer and Watermain Contractor Assoc., and Ontario Sewer and Watermain Contractor Assoc. The two associations are recommending the use of the model as best practice to their members. The Toronto Public Utility Coordinating Committee has expressed interest in recommending the use of the model to other organizations in Toronto. This study was conducted by my PhD student Osman, H. under my supervision.
Smart Infrastructure Systems: This project developed a model for the life cycle costs of smart infrastructure systems and a framework for the utilization of real-time data in decision making [P4]. This study was part of the thesis work of my MASc. student Rasic, I.
Semantic e-Infrastructure Platform
This work was funded by NSERC and other UofT grants (total funds=$125,000). The work was conducted in collaboration with CSTB (Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment, France) as part of the e-COGNOS project (Consistent knowledge management across projects and between enterprises in the construction domain--IST-2000-28671). Since then, I extended the ontology both in depth and coverage. Currently, the ontology network encompasses 20,000 concepts, including:
A core taxonomy for construction knowledge: this was the first semantic representation of construction concept as a starting point towards building a formal ontology for construction knowledge [P9]. The taxonomy encompasses construction projects, processes, products, actors and resources. In addition, it provides definition and semantic representation of related domains such as project management, constructability, finance and interoperability.
Self-Describing Concepts: developed a core metadata schema for construction knowledge, which supports interoperability between domain ontologies. Further, this schema can support self describing concepts. This could support dynamic semantic reconciliation of different organizations’ taxonomies and/or processes [S1].
A System for Ontology Merger: the proposal uses formal concept analysis and lattice algebra to dynamically merge two or more ontologies of different organizations. This system is part of the thesis work of my PhD student El-Gohary, N. [S5].
Sub-Domain Taxonomies/Ontologies: The core platform was used to build a set of interoperable sub-domain taxonomies/ontologies to capture the knowledge in a certain domain:
- Engineering Aspects:
- Highway construction knowledge: This research developed a distributed ontology architecture including a link to ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems). The work was done by my MASc. student Khan, K. [P7].
- Telecommunication infrastructure: This research work developed a taxonomy for the outside construction concepts. The work was done by my MEng student Brecino, F. [P8].
- Infrastructure products: This research work was an attempt to model the core knowledge in the physical products in different infrastructure systems as a step towards supporting collaborative design of collocated infrastructure (with emphasis on urban systems). The work was done by my PhD student Osman, H. [P18].
- Business Aspects
- Privatized infrastructure finance. Work done by my MASc. student Gill, S.
- Sustainability/Public policy [P14].
- Sustainability in Highway construction. Work done by my MASc student Wang, B. [P10].
- Green concrete. Work done by my MEng student Ahmed, N. [G1].
Interoperable Information Schemas: while previous work focused on knowledge representation (using Web Ontology Language—OWL), the following studies focused on establishing interoperability schema (using XML). This is mainly due to the lack of clear consensus in the following domain. Future work will attempt to upgrade the XML schemas into full OWL schema:
- Infrastructure performance measures: This schema is an attempt to streamline the way different infrastructure sectors define and measure the performance of their infrastructure components. The work was done by my MASc. student Abdel-Rahman, A. [S3].
- Environmental costs in Highway construction: This schema presents a consistent way to communicate the impacts and costs of different elements of highway construction on surrounding environment and local community. This work was done by MASc student Surahyo, M. [S2].
Prototype Ontology for Building construction. While all previous work focused on civil infrastructure, this study developed a prototype ontology for building construction. The work was done by, then, my MASc student Zhang, J. [P11].
Each of the aforementioned ontologies was used to create a set of web services to support a facet of KM. These complementary web services present a platform of interoperable web-based tools for the exchange of semantic knowledge. These web services covered the following facets of KM:
Knowledge-enabled Decision Making
Feasibility of Urban Transit Infrastructure: As part of supporting an integrated engineering approach for the design and management of urban infrastructure, I co-supervised an MASc. student (Pramod, K. C.) with Prof. Abdulhai to develop a system for integrating sustainability in the feasibility analysis of urban transit infrastructure. The project conducted a prototypical feasibility study of a monorail in downtown Toronto. The project developed a model for integrating traffic, construction and community needs in the decision making [P6]. The project was supported by NSERC, Toronto and Area Road Builders Assoc. and Heavy Construction Assoc. of Toronto.
Web Services Environment for Life Cycle Costing: This work was mainly conducted by myself (with some support from my graduate and undergraduate students). The environment was developed to support collaborative probabilistic system for estimating and managing life cycle costs of construction products using web services [P12].
Design Optimization: This study developed a model that combines life cycle costing, value analysis quality function deployment, and data envelopment analysis (DEA) for identifying the most optimum project scope [S6].
Collaborative Projects: using ontologies to support an interactive semantic system for knowledge exchange during project risk analysis and for optimizing project life cycle costs [P12, P14].
Corporate Memory: using semantic systems and workflow management systems to support semi-automated generation of work report and feeding previous projects knowledge into new projects [P11].
Virtual Organizations: using semantic systems to support virtual teaming and the creation of semantic-based communities of interest [P8].
Knowledge-Enabled Analysis for Sustainable Construction
Prototype e-Society Portal: using an ontology to communicate project designs to local communities [P10]. Work was funded through grants from Toronto and Area Road Builders Assoc. in collaboration with the City of Toronto. The applicant is working with the City to expand and deploy a prototypical version in two actual projects.
Knowledge Management in Environmental Costing: a web-based system for documenting and estimating the environmental costs of highway projects [S3].
Incorporation of Data exchange Standards into e-Business Taxonomies: because data exchange standards such as industry foundation classes (IFC) have been used extensively in the construction sector (especially in CAD, scheduling and cost estimation), it is beneficial to develop systems that integrates these standards in new e-business taxonomies to assure smooth transition into semantic systems [P18].
Mobile Computing: study of the benefits of mobile computing in construction. The work includes developing a “value map” for mobile computing in construction. It aims at identifying specific industry needs and where and how can mobile technology provide “value” in meeting these demands [G5]. This work is being done by my MASc. student, Ballan, S.
Stakeholder Management in Urban Infrastructure: three PhD students and myself have been granted access to attend project meetings in four major projects in Toronto (including the Don Valley Corridor—a major thoroughfare in Toronto). To support formal mining, a “profile” will be created for each meeting. This includes recording the “issues profile” (their extent and relevance, and attributes); documenting the profiles of actors involved (their roles, expertise, contributions and constraints) [F8].
Infrastructure Interdependency: I am leading a national multidisciplinary team to use the e-infrastructure platform to develop the first comprehensive ontology for infrastructure interdependency. The project is funded by the Joint Infrastructure Interdependency Research Program (JIIRP), NSERC and several industrial partners (total funds=$535,000). The project team includes three other Canadian Professors (from UofT, UBC and UofR). JIIRP is a major national initiative in Canada.
Two of my PhD students are working on elements of this ontology (hereinafter called JIIRP ontology):
- An ontology for infrastructure management processes as part of the PhD work of ElGohary, N. [F10].
- An ontology for infrastructure stakeholders as part of the PhD work of Zhang, J. [F14].
Two other students are working to support this ontology:
- A taxonomy for Gas utilities. This work is being done by my MEng. student Saliah, Y.[F6]
- Benchmarking interdependency best practices. This work is being done by my MEng. student Wensierski, M. [F11].
An epistemological model for interdependency knowledge: While current research by the applicant has focused on the ‘known’ aspect of knowledge (interoperable ontologies), this research project branches into the ‘knowing’ aspect at the human and corporate levels. The main contribution of the project is the establishment of a human-centered ecology for KM in the interdependency domain through integrating best practices from epistemology and sociology into the engineering and business aspects of KM. The ecology integrates organizational structures, work processes and software system in a customizable environment for managing individual and group knowledge to empower teams of workers to coordinate their decisions. The research aims at formalizing an epistemological model for knowledge evolution and ‘knowing’ practice in the infrastructure design/construction domain. This includes: 1) identifying the human and environmental (physical, psychological, social, political and corporate) factors that have bearing on knowledge development in the domain; 2) modeling typical scenarios for knowledge evolution; 3) understanding knowing patterns by different actors in different scenarios; and 4) linking environmental factors to typical knowing patterns.
Street Manager: using JIIRP ontology, web services and GIS-based systems to create a decision support system to optimize the routing of urban buried infrastructure systems. The system integrates engineering, sustainability (particularly traffic and community impacts) and life cycle costing into the design and construction of buried infrastructure systems [F9]. This is the implementation part of the work of my PhD student Osman, H. A prototype GIS system (StreetManager) was developed to test how multi-organization constraint satisfaction can be accomplished to support micro-level utility routing. Primary users of the portal include local municipalities and utility companies who own/mange infrastructure within a ROW. The system relies on three main components: (1) An object oriented geo data model that is built on an Infrastructure Product Ontology developed, (2) an XML-spatial constraint model, and (3) A dynamic spatial constraint knowledge base which is built according to the XML-schema.
Establishing an agent-based KM system: this research work aims at utilizing agent technology and peer-to-peer architecture to support effective flow of knowledge to the right person at the right time. This is the implementation part of the PhD work of my student Zhang, J. The work includes deploying interdependency ontologies and is to implement the epistemological model to establish a customizable environment to support human-centered exchange of knowledge. At the core of the portal is an interoperability layer where the ontologies reside. Built on top of this layer is a control layer, where a set of agents will control the access, retrieval, modification and customization of information [F15].
A framework for virtual organizations: using the principles of process reengineering, enterprise modeling and work flow management to develop a framework for situated cognition or organizational learning. The framework will include guidelines and tools for creating dynamic work processes that matches the needs of specific project. Managers can use the ontology to map the knowledge needed to perform a task (the known) and use the epistemological model to analyze the flow of knowledge among team members (the knowing process). Customizable agents can capture and distribute relevant information to team members (manage the knowers) [F7]. This work is being done by my PhD student ElGohary, N.
Semantic Web-based Open engineering Platform (SWOP): This project is funded by the 6th Framework of The European Union and includes participation from a multitude of international research groups. The project will offer a radically new and extensible approach for ICT-support in the production of complex products and services. The approach is a breakthrough in manufacturing:
- An open, semantic, web based, distributed engineering platform, including multi-dimensional constraint-based and decision-making ICT tools, for
- Fast and flexible production of customized, but “industrialised3” complex solutions,
- With intensive input of knowledge capital of engineering and expertise expressed in parametric object catalogues together with reference design patterns.
The Open Engineering Platform will be mainly built on a combination of two state-of-the-art ICT technologies with high potential for business application and impact: Semantic Web (SW) technologies and Genetic Algorithms (for smart manipulation of semantic data).
My plans for future work focus on extending the scope of i2c, work on implementing KM tools in individual organizations, and using web services tools to support the evolution of knowledge cities.
Second Phase of i2c
The second phase of i2c builds on the results of current research. It includes three main research initiatives (see Figure below) and the establishment of an industry forum:
Smart Toronto: A Sensor Network for Real-Time Data Collection: installing a network of sensors, actuators, and cameras to collect real time data about existing infrastructure systems in Toronto. The network will be designed through collaboration with Prof. Sinfield, Purdue University, and, possibly, Prof. Ian Smith, EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). The network design will be based on a survey of the state-of-the-art sensing technologies and a comprehensive analysis of data needs and their relevance to effective infrastructure operations and long term planning.
Ontario Infrastructure Portal: A GIS-based web portal for relevant infrastructure information (location, specifications, performance levels, surrounding area statistics and needs, etc.) along with knowledge-based systems for decision support that can help decision makers integrate the designs of several infrastructure systems, coordinate the construction planning of various projects in a manner that optimizes direct project cost (reducing rework and delays) and user costs (impacts on traffic, business and the environment). The portal will feature knowledge enabled web services that allow a decision maker to evaluate the attributes and impacts of different options on social, economic and environmental aspects in addition to life cycle costs. Work in this regard includes collaboration with CSTB and, possibly, University of Bonn.
Infrastructure policy analysis: defining, measuring and integrating sustainability into the development process; benchmarking successful implementations; developing legal frameworks for e-infrastructure; modeling policy components and issues into policy objects that can be used to for simulating the impacts of different policy combinations.
A major constraint on all stakeholders is the set of regulations that define their work system boundaries. The work will model the objectives and role of Canadian regulations; and ultimately, how they support collaboration. This will also include identifying basic requirements, methodologies, and mismatches between existing codes. Finally, this task will benchmark efforts for code consistency in other countries and other industries.
Industry forum: The Centre will create an infrastructure forum that will hold regular meeting for industry executives, conduct informative seminars, analyze industry standard, and ultimately act as a catalysts for knowledge-based collaborations. This includes the creation of digital libraries that will be available to users, such as engineers, developers, financiers, etc.; and nourishing the development and exchange of infrastructure “knowledge products” to foster coordinated optimized developments.
With an effective free market, highly qualified labour, and abundance of natural resources, the Canadian construction market is a lucrative place for multi-national organizations. Canadian companies will need to acquire top-notch technologies, motivated and well-trained personnel and reliable IT strategies to be able to compete in this market. In addition, companies need to establish strong mechanisms to harness the best of construction knowledge and business expertise, as globalization essentially depends on organizations’ ability to capture, package and market their expertise, rather than their physical resources (i.e. labour, equipment and materials).
Human Factors in Knowledge Management: this research work emphasizes the socially embedded and contextual character of knowledge. It aims at bringing human factor to the fore of KM systems through the use of data mining (to discover knowledge patterns), epistemology (to model the knowing/learning process) and agent technology (to provide autonomous intractable representation of actors’ knowledge)..
Competitiveness in Global economy: There is a need for a paradigm shift among infrastructure developers to start perceiving their expertise in infrastructure development and operations as marketable products. This emphasizes the need to instill the following business tools and paradigms in the infrastructure industry:
- Best of breed practice: firms have to instill a culture for harnessing best of breed solutions in construction technology, human capital, project development processes and project finance schemes to be able to compete.
- Dynamic organizations: organizations need to concentrate on core competence and re-invents their offerings by re-configuring its virtual enterprises per project. More importantly, organizations have to master the capabilities and vision to lead/adapt to changes as they occur in the market.
- Time to market: well-prepared plans to penetrate markets through detailed analysis of conditions and potential projects and possible partners.
Virtual organizations: reengineer the process of infrastructure provision to foster a new information culture that emphasizes data collection, use of advanced technology and sharing of information among project participants—specifically:
- Establishing flexible and modular process structures that reduce information noise upon organization interface.
- Developing distributed project decision-making cycles that allow end-users to use their proprietary and commercial applications to synchronize and integrate the elements of an infrastructure project.
- Developing means and best practice standards for coordinating the interaction between individuals and firms in a dynamic virtual development enterprise.
From Environmental Assessment to Sustainability Promotion: This research project aims at establishing a knowledge-based system for enhancing the processes of environmental assessment and community consultation and integrating the results of these two processes into the design process. To help upgrade the current practice from mere analysis of the environmental impacts into a comprehensive consultative and innovative process for consideration of sustainability, the following research tasks will be undertaken:
- Formal documentation of the process: using formal computer systems to document the EA process to facilitate the development of web-based systems for managing the knowledge gained during EA implementation.
- Synthesis of the knowledge gained in EA implementation: identification of major issues and best practices of EA through analysis of representative cases and interviews with experts.
- Database of EA cases: currently most EA cases are not kept. The knowledge gained during the consideration of these cases is lost. This task aims at proposing a semantic database system to document EA cases in a reusable format.
- EA knowledge portal: establish a web-based portal for supporting and exchanging best practices about EA, including establishing design aids that support engineers during the design phase to incorporate EA best practices in their design.
This work will be done by my incoming MASc. student Bucci, M. (starting Sept. 2006).
A knowledge city is achieved mainly through active citizens, NGO (non-government organizations) and private sector contribution to the achievement of sustainable knowledge economy within a conducive culture and business environment set up by city leaders. Consequently, in a knowledge city, virtually all urban projects are commissioned through active participation of citizens.
Community impacts and involvement: the true essence of sustainability is in blending infrastructure project into the socio-economic fabric of our neighborhoods. Smart growth initiatives should intertwine, in addition to environmental protection, community protection into the development of infrastructure through emphasizing reliable public and emergency services, enforcing safe practice in infrastructure design, construction and operation, and instilling a customer-orientation and satisfaction mentality in every development effort. This includes:
- document the rationale and consequence of each decision (for future data mining);
- empower citizens with enough information and means to study, comment, propose and evaluate creative solutions and design alternatives.
- provide local communities and business with a clear perspective of the short and long term impacts of a new project on the environmental, social and economic sustainability. This will allow local business to integrate new project in their future plans.
- drawing on the expertise of all relevant stakeholders. This is becoming more relevant given the increasing role of non-technical issues in urban project development. Moreover, in a knowledge city, community members are expected to posses and to be able to communicate valuable innovative ideas.
Infrastructure economy: infrastructure development strategy should consider innovative finance options that provide not only required project finance but, more importantly, complement overall development policy objectives. For example, highway financing through transit pricing policies that induce a communal paradigm shift from “mobility” to “access” or energy use policies that finance alternative energy systems through taxing traditional ones. On a higher level, infrastructure should be provisioned to complement our socio-economic development objectives. The introduction of an infrastructure component in a community pond should create balanced reliable rebel effects that boost the local economy through local employment and facilitating goods and people movement.
Integrated development: cultivating all desired aspects of sustainability will never be realized without packaging development efforts in a “band” of projects orchestrated to eliminate rework, reduce the staggering user and business cost; prioritize and allocate budgets in a balanced long term approach, and optimize public investment. This includes threading engineering, management and business concepts in infrastructure development. For example, using smart durable materials to reduce life cycle cost, establishing rigorous operational, maintenance and rehabilitation systems that emphasis infrastructure function as a conduit for our economic and communal activities.
I have established strong collaboration with CSTB, France. This included work on the e-COGNOS Project (Consistent knowledge management across projects and between enterprises in the construction domain--IST-2000-28671). This project was funded by the 5thFramework of the European Union and included support from leading European construction organizations and universities: Taylor Woodrow Ltd. (UK), Hochtief AG ( Germany), YIT Building ( Finland ), DERBi (France), CSTB (France), ARISEM (France), ISI-University of Salford (UK). The project was the first attempt to develop a comprehensive ontology-based system for KM in construction [P9, P16, P17].
I was also invited to be the first academic member of the 2nd work group of FiaTech. FiaTech is a major industry alliance in the US aiming at establishing an IT-Based roadmap for the construction industry. The alliance includes the major players in the construction industry (owners, contractors and software vendors). NSF has adopted FiaTech roadmap as the basis for accepting new research indicatives in construction IT.
I was also invited by CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) to join Canada-Mexico Partnership (CMP) Working Group on Housing. The group is led by CMHC and their Mexican counterpart (CONAFOVI). The objective of the group is to promote sustainable technologies and products in their projects throughout Mexico . The Caanda-Mexico Partnership (CMP) was launched on October 24, 2004, within the context of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico and the 10th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Additional collaborative work includes:
- Case Studies on the Use of IT in the Canadian Construction Industry. This project was funded by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers and included collaboration with Prof. Rivard, ETS (P. I.), Froese, UBC, and Waugh, UNB.
- An ontology for infrastructure interdependency: This project is funded by the NSERC and the Joint Infrastructure Interdependency Research Program (JIIRP). I am the P.I. in this project, which includes collaboration with Prof. Karney, UofT, Froese, UBC, and El-Darbiey, UofR.
Stage 2 of my strategy focused on the establishment of the new Centre for Information Systems in Infrastructure and Construction (i2c).” The Centre is a node for industry-academia collaboration to enable the adoption of information technology in the construction industry. The Center’s main objective is to optimize project development through coordinating planning and operations across independent jurisdictions, nourishing a thriving information supply chain in the construction marketplace including the advancement of smart workplaces and intelligent infrastructure systems. For more details about the mission of the centre please visit the Centre's website
Funding for the Centre was secured through grants from CFI, OIT, UofT and industry. The total budget of the centre is around $1.8 million. The centre facility is designed as a smart facility and a live lab, where students can control the environmental aspects of the facility and study their impacts on energy consumption, user comfort, and facility use. Attachment RA5.3 provides a summary of the main features of the facility. To that end, i2c allowed a very effective means for engaging the industry in my research and supporting my plans for putting my research into action. i2c is currently engaged in several collaborative research projects with Canadian, European and US teams.
The Center’s objective is to conduct research and develop implementation tools in:
- Smart homes and workspace: integrate home information systems to optimize user comfort; and blending home information systems with “Green Design” practice.
- Smart infrastructure: integrating designs of infrastructure across jurisdictions; coordinating execution plans to optimize associated user and business costs; and assuring design sustainability.
- Intelligent companies: supporting the creation and dissemination of best-of-breed solutions in technology, human capital, project development and finance schemes.
- Intelligent policies/management systems: harnessing best practice in deregulation schemes; embracing globalization through awareness of the opportunities; and innovative legislations and trade agreements that foster Canadian competitiveness.
Five overlapping tools have been identified to realize these objectives:
- Research: integrating deigns of collocated projects; coordinating construction plans; establishing collaborative virtual organizations; defining, measuring and integrating sustainability into the development process; modeling the needs and techniques for ecosystem restoration; establishing measures and tools to optimize public investments; benchmarking successful implementations in other industries and other countries; developing legal frameworks for e-infrastructure;
- Real-time data collection: a network of digital cameras, sensors, intelligent devices (such as smart gas valves, traffic signals, pollution monitoring stations, etc.) will be installed throughout Toronto. The Centre will integration data collected from all sorts (manually, sensor-based or network-based) into a harmonious repository of “infrastructure data” to support investment decisions.
- Software systems and web services: support a collaborative portal for integrating infrastructure design, coordinating construction, analysis of infrastructure inter-dependency, and optimizing public investments.
- Industry Forum: engaging industry to define research agendas, and validate/implement research results. Establish collaborative work environments, investigate impacts of public policy on the industry, and analyze strategies to benefit from globalization.
- e-society portal: engaging the community in infrastructure development through a web portal designed to solicit community input in the design of future infrastructure (including simplifying decision options for the public and building consensus).
- Inter-disciplinary education: I believe in introducing operations research and knowledge engineering concepts to civil engineering students. Students need such background to be able to manage/communicate in the upcoming world of (virtual and real) network-based design and construction, which is the hallmark of the knowledge-economy.
- Industry interaction: I envision a learning environment that will create partnership between the university and the industry. In this partnership, students will get a hands-on learning experience in the field and industry leaders and faculty will work together to shape curriculum and research agenda.
CIV320—Management of Construction
I taught this course in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006. This is a required course of all civil engineering students. It aims at introducing students to the basics of construction engineering and management. I redeveloped the course to focus more on the management angle. While other courses (such as Building Science, Construction Engineering, and Municipal Engineering) introduced aspects of construction engineering, no other course offered the management aspects of civil projects. I also believed that the management aspect is more needed to support the new Dept. strategy, which focused on sustainability and urban engineering. Sound understanding of project management is the basis for integrating the works of different civil engineering disciplines and that of other domains (such as project finance and environmental management).
By its very nature, teaching construction management includes an item of training. This includes training students on safety code, scheduling software and reading construction drawings. For this portion, I invited industry experts to lecture my students.
The course covers the issues of construction industry structure, project planning, cost estimating, resource management, project control, financial management, safety, communication, IT, and quality management. Elements of current research in the areas of IT, and infrastructure privatization and finance are also introduced to students. The course includes a module for teaching a major project scheduling software and a mandatory project on using this software in scheduling a construction project. In 2005, I introduced an optional module and project on 4D. In 2007, I plan to upgrade the scheduling project into a full scale project on estimating, scheduling and bidding on one of the many construction project taking place at UofT. The project will be evaluated by the project architect, contractor, and the manager of UofT capital projects.
CIV101—Structures, Materials and Design
This is a mandatory course for all incoming engineering students at UofT. I taught the course in 2004 and 2005 to the mechanical engineering students. The course syllabus, text, and outline were developed by the course coordinator, Prof. Wright.
Knowing that this course is one of the first that exposes students to engineering science, I focused on teaching them not only the theory of structures and how to solve problems, but also introduced them to the rational analytical techniques for systems analysis through the following tools:
- Developed and engaged students in modeling the basic principles of the course into a UML model. This helped them understand the basic entities and their interrelationships.
- Real-life cases: in addition to the typical problems, I introduced an optional assignment called “analyze this”, which challenged the students to apply structural analysis principles to every day events/structures. The assignments progressed form simple observations, to analysis of unusual structures to the design of innovative systems.
CIV1278—Pre-Project Planning and Constructability Analysis
I offered this course for the last 5 years. I redeveloped the course contents to focus on advanced topics in project planning. The course contents evolved based on the feed back that I received from students. Currently, the main elements of the course are:
- Value engineering
- Constructability analysis
- Pre-project planning
CIV1283—IT Applications in Construction
This is a new course that I developed and offered in 2001 and 2004. The course introduces students to the following main topics:
- System analysis and modeling: UML, STEP, Process modeling
- Data exchange standards: IFC (industry foundation classes)
- Semantic and knowledge-based systems: taxonomies and ontologies
- Applications of IT in construction.
CIV1299—The Business of Construction
This is a new special studies course that I offered in 2003. The course included the following topics:
- Construction industry structure
- Relationship between construction industry and economic development and performance
- Construction marketing
- Strategic planning in construction.
Between 1991 and 1993, I supervised the development and delivery of a comprehensive training program in construction management for Egyptian Civil engineers (total of 1500 engineers), which was funded by the World Bank. Through my membership in the sustainable development committee, I conducted the following courses:
- Sustainable Infrastructure Professional Development course, Human Resources Canada & CSCE, Toronto, November, 2002
- Sustainable Engineering in an Urban Environment Professional Development Course, CSCE, Toronto, November, 2002
- Environmentally Sustainable Construction--An Introductory One Day Workshop, Moncton, June 4, 2003
I also conducted the following course:
- Construction Project Management—A three day professional development training course, May 20-22, 2005, ACAPE, Toronto, Ontario
- Study of Research Methodology: to me the essence of graduate studies, especially at the PhD level, is the ability to understand, develop and conduct research using sound, effective and valid research methodologies [P5]. Immediately as my students arrived, I challenged them to present a report about different research methodologies. Next I instructed them to develop a research scope and methodology with their first year at UofT. This helped create more rounded students and faster tenure at school.
- Focusing on Research Implementation: each student is responsible for implementing his/her research work into an industry-relevant software/decision support system. Each student is working with at least one industry organization to secure field-based data collection and validation of their research.
- Publication: I encouraged my PhD students to write papers based on their research work as soon as possible [P18, P19, S4, S5]. I also encouraged them to write papers outside their research scope whenever possible—for example P13, S6 and:
- Osman, H. (2005) “Risk-based Life Cycle Cost Analysis of Privatized Infrastructure” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. No 1924, TRB, National Research Council, Washington D.C. pp 192-196.