Feature Stories

Improving Design Technology in the Construction Industry

Ph.D. student Li Wang demonstrates a plug-in that works with Autodesk Navisworks to link comments directly to 3D elements. 

Automated code-checking is a developing technology which is predicted to transform building design, construction, and facility management. This process utilizes the speed of computers to check the code compliance of building plans. For code officials, large quantities of time spent analyzing plans for code compliance will be a thing of past, without compromising safety.

Graduate research assistant Li Wang is currently working on Fiatech’s Autocodes project which aims to apply innovative technology to enable a digital review process, including automated code checking of Building Information Models. By doing this, Fiatech intends to make the building regulatory process faster, more uniform, and ultimately more competitive. AutoCodes is viewed by many analysts of the capital projects industry as a potential game-changer.

Working alongside Assistant Professor Fernanda Leite, Wang’s research focuses on developing an innovative approach to capture, represent and formalize experiential knowledge in design coordination to inform better design decisions, improve collaboration efficiency and train novice designers/engineers.  

The proposed approach which she is investigating will systematically capture expert decisions during design coordination in an object-oriented, computer-interpretable manner and leverage database and machine learning techniques for knowledge reuse. Essentially, Wang is helping to develop formalization between tacit building design and construction expert knowledge. She is also striving to resolve clashes detected in building information models to help train novice designers in the future.

"We developed a plug-in that works with Autodesk Navisworks to link comments directly to 3D elements so that we can pull the information and learn from it," says Wang.

Leite adds, "If we can learn how experts make decisions and put all those decisions in a database, then we can use machine-learning algorithms to suggest solutions to new design conflicts, based on hundreds or thousands made in the past."

The researchers use UT Austin’s Visualization Laboratory to demonstrate the plug-in on the touch screen system Lasso for design coordination meetings, so contractors can see and interact with 3D models at a larger scale and resolution.

Wang shares her knowledge as an active member of professional organizations such as the Austin BIM Peer Group, which is composed of over 30 local designers, contractors, suppliers and owners who use BIM.  The group’s mission is to provide a platform for industry peers to share information, lessons learned, and best practices on various topics in BIM. 

Wang has given regular presentations in their monthly meetings and worked with the group to develop a white paper with Leite on the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration which introduces steps to create a unique BIM Peer Group.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and Master’s degree in Construction Engineering and Project Management at the University of Texas at Austin in 2010.  She joined the department’s PhD program in January 2011 to further develop her interest and expertise in BIM.