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Innovation Through Practice

Purpose: Through the study of visualizations, virtual worlds, and information exchange, this research reveals the complex connections between technology and the work of design and construction. The authors apply the socio-technical view of technology and the ramifications this view has on successful use of technology in design and construction.

Approach: This is a discussion paper reviewing over a decade of research that connects  three streams of research on architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) teams as these teams grappled with adapting work practices to new technologies and the opportunities these technologies promised.

Findings: From studies of design and construction practices with Building Information Modeling and energy modeling, the authors show that given the constructed nature of  models and the loose-coupling of project teams, these team organizational practices need  to mirror the modeling requirements. Second, looking at distributed teams, whose interaction is mediated by technology, the authors argue that virtual world visualizations
enhance discovery, while distributed AEC teams also need more traditional forms of 2D abstraction, sketching, and gestures to support integrated design dialogue. Finally, in information exchange research the authors found that models and data have their own logic and structure and as such require creativity and ingenuity to exchange data across systems. Taken together, these streams of research suggest that process innovation is  brought about by people developing new practices.

Originality: In this paper the authors argue that technology alone does not change practice. People who modify practices with and through technology create process innovation.