Enhancing mindful coordination in fragmented utility construction practices: by developing, implementing and evaluating virtual design and construction models

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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Municipalities cope with a growth in number of utility network owners and subsurface network size. Simultaneously, the multiple utility owners involved in subsurface construction work need to align plans to cope with tight deadlines and imposed spatial constraints. This research hones in on this challenged practice by developing, implementing and empirically testing Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) tools for utility construction. VDC tools capture process knowledge and support coordination by, for example, visualizing schedules to rehearse construction work upfront. This research consisted of three main steps: first, the author ethnographically studied two urban utility projects to gain insider knowledge about existing coordination practices. He used this to create a method that involves end-user perspectives during development of domain-specific knowledge bases (ontologies) for VDC systems. He developed a domain ontology for utility project coordination by using this method. In the second step, he used the ontology to implement 4D VDC models in four real-life projects. This ethnographic-action research culminated in an additional method for 4D-based project coordination. This second method suggests steps to scope construction plans; formalize them in schedules and 3D models; and, synchronize these by using 4D snapshotting and process animations. Third, the author adopted mindful organizing principles from High Reliability Organizing (HRO) theory to evaluate the impact of 4D VDC on coordination. HRO’s principles (viz. being sensitive to operations, reluctant to simplify, attentive to failures and errors, and committed to resilience) guide organizations to effectively anticipate and contain process disturbances. They served as a lens to qualitatively code the observations of 4D-use in three utility projects. The analysis shows that tailored VDC systems support mindful behaviour in utility construction. By demonstrating that end-user tailored VDC systems support mindful behaviour and, thus, help anticipating and containing unwanted events, this thesis concludes that VDC systems are likely to reduce process disturbances, cost overruns and delay. The thesis finally reflects on the findings, methods, and adopted theory. It explains, for example, that future research could aim at testing the developed methods for different VDC tools, as well as at studying additional projects to generalize findings about how VDC impacts coordination.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Dorée, Andries G., Supervisor
  • Hartmann, T., Co-Supervisor
Award date22 Oct 2015
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3984-5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2015


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