ECPPM 2021 – eWork and eBusiness in Architecture, Engineering and Construction
As new social, economic, environmental changes, including dramatic epidemic challenges, occur, the role of
digital technologies becomes increasingly influential, especially in the development of the Architecture, Engineering,
Construction and Facility Management (AEC/FM) industry.They allowa newperspective for sustainable
evolution of urban environments and infrastructures that are permanently growing and becoming more complex.
Although the digital transformation of the building industry has been an ongoing process over several decades,
often hidden under the moniker of building information modelling (BIM), the progress in development and
practical adoption of digital technologies does not fully meet the expectations. It certainly has much greater
potential that will be realized in the coming years.
The first organizations to introduce digital innovations have good chances to be leaders of the AEC/FM
industry. The formula to achieve success and competitive advantage, apparently, is based on the same imperatives
that are recommended by Gartner for any organizations adopting digital technologies. These imperatives are
dynamism, privacy, augmented intelligence, culture, product management and digital twin; they definitely have
need for emerging Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Dynamism is crucial for the organization’s adaptability and its potential to improve business processes and
increase productivity. ICT technologies bring new capabilities and new ways for AEC/FM organizations to succeed.
However, rational adoption of the technologies still remains a challenging problem, to a significant degree,
due to the multi-disciplinary nature of projects, large volumes of information and its heterogeneity, computationally
hard optimization problems, involvement of numerous stakeholders, variety of used software tools and
platforms, legacy data to be maintained throughout the entire project lifecycle (design, engineering, construction,
operation, demolishment), insufficient levels of standardization, regulation and legislation. These factors prevent
the direct use of general-purpose ICT technologies, and the latter must be essentially improved or adapted to
meet these requirements. This circumstance opens up a wide field for further research and development.
Modern ICT technologies for management of databases, documents, revisions, workflows, and requirements
remain a priority. The need to share information among project participants with own roles, expertise, skills
leads to the problem of information consistency and trustworthiness. Involvement of the participants separated
geographically, organizationally and technically only exacerbates the problem. Being exchanged, replicated,
transformed, and updated in an uncoordinated manner, the information loses consistency and integrity, which
makes it useless for further interpretation and processing by BIM tools. The development and deployment of
advanced CDE (Common Data Environment) servers providing solid transaction guarantees ACID (Atomicity,
Consistency, Isolation and Durability) and BASE (Basically Available, Soft state, Eventually consistent) seems
to be a promising approach to management of semantically complex information, combining both BIM data
driven by a formally specified schemata and complementary semi-structured or unstructured documents.
BIM interoperability also remains a critically important and still unresolved issue. It relates to the ability of
BIM software applications and users to exchange and share project information freely. A rather disappointing
experience with openBIM standards by buildingSMART alliance and, particularly, with IFC files has forced
the proponents to acknowledge the difference between enabling applications to exchange data (the so-called
technical and semantic interoperability), and the desired substantive property of applications to coherently
interact with each other while keeping data complete, consistent and meaningful (conceptual interoperability).
To move towards this goal and ensure the conceptual interoperability of IFC-compliant applications, not just
technical and semantic ones, standardization and certification activities should be thoroughly reviewed.
It is worth acknowledging that the IFC standard seems to be the best solution for achieving the real interoperability
between BIM applications produced by different software vendors. It is gratifying to see that the IFC
standard continues to evolve, covering more infrastructure applications complementary to traditional disciplines.
At the same time, alternative approaches to integrated data management are also being proposed and elaborated.
These are federated databases, ontologies for separate BIM disciplines and aspects, linked data technologies,
document-oriented information containers. However, they cause extremely hard issues of data consistency, concurrent
access, change control, the resolution of which seems still rather nontrivial. All of the above approaches
need formal methods to validate and certify software applications, otherwise interoperability can simply be
declared, but can never be guaranteed.
The project information privacy is another fundamental problem. Inability to successfully manage privacy
puts the entire digital transformation of AEC/FM organizations at high risks. Many employers do not want
to give up safety, confidentiality and peace of mind in exchange for convenience and ability to freely share
information with partners when collaborating together on multidisciplinary projects. Cryptography, blockchain,
and smart contracts are just some of the technologies that need careful validation before being widely adopted
into industrial practice.
AEC/FM industry is encouraged to follow the latest ICT technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big
Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, which are often employed together to bring the digital twin
(DT) paradigm. Being a cyber-physical system (CPS) which integrates computation, control and communication
facilities, DT reveals new perspectives on managing the construction, operation and maintenance of the building
and its assets. A high level of fidelity is reached by gathering data about physical world objects in real time and
automatically converting it into respective digital models.The behavior of the physical objects can be investigated
and predicted under changing conditions, proper management decisions are taken to optimize objective functions.
DTtechnologies have a lot of applications forAEC/FM industry.They allowstakeholders to continuously monitor
real progress on the construction site against the initial BIM-based planning, to control energy performance of
the building under different operation modes and occupation factors, to manage building assets.The methods that
can significantly improve the building construction and operation have been well studied, but the services that
implement them need more modern deployment platforms and highly automated configuration tools, sometimes
called DT factories.
Being scaled up to the city level, digital twins can help in optimizing traffic in urban environments, controlling
pedestrian flows in crowded places, managing energy consumption, monitoring air pollution, and so on. Smart
cities and smart buildings managed using digital twins are expected to provide better service, improved quality of
life and a sustainable future. WhileBIMis focused on individual buildings, the need of the information integration
at the city level and the resulting amalgamation of BIM and City Information Modeling (CIM) become more
obvious. However, this aspect is not explored in its full potential yet. Diverse information standards, different
computation models and methods should be reviewed and, likely, harmonized to bridge the gap between BIM
and CIM technologies.
The information acquisition is necessary for the functioning of CPS services and digital twins. Different
sorts of sensors and IoT devices, integrated with BIM and CIM, seem to be the logical choice for monitoring
infrastructures and building assets during construction and operation stages. Complementary methods of photogrammetry,
laser scanning with point clouds and aerial drone captures have been gaining traction in monitoring
urban environments and construction sites. Obtained semi-structured data such as time series, photos, videos
and point clouds lacks concise semantics, raising many difficulties when interfacing with BIM and CIM models.
Semantic recovery and enrichment of sensed and scanned data is a computationally hard problem often resolved
using AI methods. The management of big spatial-temporal data is another serious problem requiring thorough
research on special-purpose databases.
As the pressure on the global climate and resources is constantly increasing due to population growth and
intensified human activities, more and more attention is paid to sustainable development – a foundational principle
that implies ensuring of a civilized quality of life for the future generation. Indeed, being a significant resource
consumer, the AEC/FM industry is responsible for significant shares of the total energy use, global greenhouse
gas emissions, total waste and raw material. Currently, most of the efforts within the industry are focused on new
methods to acquire and use resources within so-called circular economy. It implies studying products, improving
processes, increasing energy efficiency, managing supply chains to minimise wasted resources. However, all
these efforts are still to be adopted at a larger scale.
Sustainability is a quite complex concept covering both social, economic and environmental pillars and
admitting different assessments and criteria such as design quality, functionality, comfort and health, floor area,
spatial program, building cost and life-cycle cost, solar insolation, heating/cooling load, energy use intensity and
global warming potential. To meet these criteria, different mathematical models, computation, simulation and
optimization methods can be effectively employed. At the same time, as some criteria are subjective assessments,
the role of social surveys still remains important.
In recent years, AI methods and tools have become an indispensable part of civil engineering, construction
management, building operation control and are facing ever new applications. Regardless of what principles
the methods are based on: neural networks, swarm intelligence, machine learning, metaheuristics such as evolutionary
algorithms, ant colony, simulated annealing; the methods enable solving wide classes of problems of
global optimization, reasoning and decision making, clustering and data mining, recognition and classification.
Not aiming to provide a comprehensive panorama of AI methods and applications for the AEC/FM industry,
we are pleased to present dedicated papers and surveys focusing on AI methods for such actual problems as
structural damage detection, optimization of structural design, building code compliance checking, and analysis
of semi-structured data. Unfortunately, little attention is paid to the issues of augmented intelligence which is the
logical step beyond artificial intelligence in the AEC/FM and, according to Gartner, it will change jobs putting
employers side by side with advanced artificial intelligence systems, process and robotics and making new jobs
more meaningful and rewarding.
Finally, although mentioned last, culture is identified as the largest barrier to realizing the promise of digital
transformations. Culture is not just social behavior and norms, but also the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws,
customs, capabilities, and habits. As culture is acquired through the learning processes, dissemination of the
best practices, presentation of emerging ICT technologies at scientific and practical forums, standardization and
legislation efforts, new education formats are all of great interest and importance.
This book collects the papers presented at the 13th European Conference on Product and Process Modelling
(ECPPM 2021, Moscow, 5–7 May 2021). Covering a wide spectrum of thematic areas overviewed above, the
papers are devoted to critically important problems arising on the ongoing way of digital transformations in
the AEC/FM industry. High quality contributions hold great promise towards the advancement of research and
technological development targeted at the digitalization imperatives.
I want to thank the chairman and founder of the ECPPM conference Prof. Raimar Scherer, the members of the
scientific committee whose comments contributed to the quality of the presented papers, my colleague Vasily
Shutkin who took over a significant part of the organizational work, and, of course, the authors who found the
opportunity, strength and inspiration to complete and present exciting research results in such a difficult and
Prof. Vitaly Semenov