António Lucas Soares
INESC Porto, Rua Roberto Frias, Campus da FEUP, 4200 Porto Portugal
University of Porto, Faculty of Engineering, Rua Roberto Frias s/n, 4200 Porto Portugal
Manuel Moreira da Silva
INESC Porto, Rua Roberto Frias, Campus da FEUP, 4200 Porto Portugal
ISCAP - IPP, Rua Jaime Lopes Amorim, s/n, 4465 S. Mamede de Infesta Portugal
Dora Simões
INESC Porto, Rua Roberto Frias, Campus da FEUP, 4200 Porto Portugal
University of Aveiro, ISCAA, R. Associação Humanitária dos Bombeiros de Aveiro, 3811 Aveiro Portugal
Keywords: Semantic resources, Knowledge communities, Ontology engineering, Ontology reuse/integration, KMS.
Abstract: Knowledge management intrinsically involves communication and information sharing, which can be
strongly affected by the context in which it is viewed and interpreted. This situation gets worst when
complex domains are considered, as it is the case of the Construction Industry domains. The development of
ontologies to unify and to put into context the different concepts and terms of the sometimes rather
traditional and locally coloured construction industry domains is a necessary step to avoid
misinterpretations and inefficient communication. The KNOW-CONSTRUCT project decided, as an
approach to this task, to re-use, as far as possible, existing ontologies, classification systems and other
semantic resources in order to develop a system that may come to contribute to standards and to the
integration, management and reuse of the area specific knowledge via a common knowledge base in order to
consolidate and provide access to integrated knowledge, making community emergent knowledge a
significant added value. It aims at developing a methodology of common Construction Industry Knowledge
(CIK) representation applicable to large sets of SMEs in the construction industry as a basis for the
establishment of a knowledge community.
Building and construction companies have to
continuously renew their working habits in order to
face an increasing competitive environment where
flexibility and adaptability to change are the obliged
route to success.
The main challenge is to provide a cost-effective
solution for the two main problems:
1. Construction industry (particularly SMEs)
urgently needs radical improvements of
communication with customers in order to
provide better product support and services. The
innovative forms of communications and
relationships among SMEs and their customers
are increasingly important in order to improve
the market share and/or survival chances in the
"new economy era".
2. To respond to ever increasing customer
requirements it is increasingly necessary to
establish a closer co-operation (particularly
among SMEs) within this sector, aiming at
assembling alliances of SMEs into integrated
teams that will genuinely align with challenging
performance targets.
Lucas Soares A., Moreira da Silva M. and Simões D. (2006).
In Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - AIDSS, pages 270-277
DOI: 10.5220/0002465602700277
Taking into account these needs the the Know-
Construct (KC) EU project
aims to develop an
Internet Platform for Knowledge-based Customer
Needs Management and for Support to Knowledge
Communities of SMEs in Construction Industry. It
involves professional associations of the sector as
they may provide an ideal environment to
disseminate innovative solutions.
) is to provide a common
internet-based platform for SMEs from the
construction sector to achieve an effective
combination of two general functionalities:
1. Customer Needs Management (CNM) System: a
decision making support system regarding the
products characteristics, applications and other
consultancy services for SMEs customers
applying the "web enabled dialogue", and
2. Knowledge Communities Support (KCS) System:
a system for SMEs to support a form of co-
operation through the creation of Knowledge
Communities of SMEs in Construction Industry.
Figure 1: Know-Construct basic concept.
The system supports the integration,
management and reuse of the area specific
knowledge via a common knowledge base. The
platform will be owned by associations, offering to
members (SME) an area to establish specific
customer relationship management (using the KC
individual CNM systems) that take benefit of a
knowledge community supported by the KCS
For a successful solution it was necessary to
establish a multidisciplinary approach combining
research activities in different areas, such as
knowledge representation, particularly creation of
the adequate ontologies and their structure, effective
forms of on-line interaction among customers and
SME (eConsultancy - web enabled dialogue with
EU - COLL-CT-2004-500276
expert/technical advisor), as well as product
classification systems for this sector, new forms for
a representation of the CI knowledge (e.g.
experience-based), investigation of efficient
approaches for training, etc.
This paper describes a fundamental phase of the
project which was the selection and structuring of
the semantic resources (ontologies, classifications,
thesauri), that form the cornerstone of the KC
system. The rest of the paper is as following: section
2 describes briefly in the concept and functional
architecture of the KC system; section 3 describes
the process of selecting the relevant knowledge
sources for the KC ontology construction and
integration; section 4 describes the KC ontology
structure and gives examples of its content.
The relationship between organizations and
communities, including their implication in the
organization structure, IT systems and business
model, depends on the nature of the value derived of
them. This area has not been sufficiently mapped
before, but [Cornejo 2003] explores it very well
starting with the nature of knowledge, the translation
into value for individuals and organizations, the
definition of community taxonomies and its
influence on organizational drivers. KC addresses
this specific point: how to derive the maximum
value to individual SMEs from a knowledge
community where those companies participate.
2.1 Models for Knowledge
KC general objective is to improve the relationship
of CI SME's with their customers by providing the
later an innovative support regarding information
and knowledge about products, processes and
associated issues. This is achieved through
specifically developed ICT tools, in particular tools
that support the formation and operation of SME's
knowledge communities, fostering an improved
collaboration aimed at generating broader and more
accurate knowledge to be used in satisfying
The broader context of this development are the
sector’s associations that provide, besides others,
some sense of grouping to the participant SME's.
This knowledge community (Construction Industry
Knowledge (CIK) community) can be considered as
a hybrid of community of practice and interest,
which is Organization-sponsored (Porter, 2004).
From one side, company employees as individuals
should see a direct utility to their particular jobs
when participating in the CIK community. This
direct utility comes into light when an employee
(and consequently the company) realizes that, when
solving a problem to an important customer (using
the CNM system), the information/knowledge used
to reach the solution comes also from the
contribution of the other community members.
Nevertheless, not all the activities can be tracked
to a causal benefit to the SME. For example, some
chatting between two employees exchanging a
specific professional experiences or a report in a
news or blog item by another employee of a concern
regarding the performance of a construction
material, are activities that make sense in a
community but cannot be assigned of a concrete
immediate value for the organization.
Based on work of de Vries et al. 2004, we
synthesize the following characteristics of the CIK
The goal is to develop and exploit knowledge
about construction area.
There are continuous interactions between
participants in order to meet these goals.
Information and communication processes are
continuously made explicit.
It adds value to the participants (professionals
and customers).
The online meeting place is usable.
The culture focuses on the needs of the
participants as the route to high performance;
involvement and participation create a sense of
responsibility and ownership and, hence, greater
commitment to the community.
The context is highly complex and very unstable,
and CIK Community will have to continuously
comply with the expectations of its participants
and their context of use.
The main question here is how to implement and
make use of online knowledge communities in order
to meet these goals and expectations. As an answer
to this problem, we propose to adopt and adapt the
reference model developed by [de Vries et al. 2004]
that describes factors that affect the implementation
and use of an online knowledge community as a type
of networked organizational communication.
Following this explanation, CIK Community
will consist of three elements: professionals, on-line
professional meeting place, and organizational
context. We see the implementation of CIK
Community as a continuing communication process,
a constant search for a fit between these three
Professionals are all the professionals of the
construction area and belonging to the
associations of the project partnership.
On-line Professional Meeting Place is the
online place where the members of the
community will take theirs discussions, debates,
conversations, etc.
Organizational context is related with the
organizational goals, culture, technology, etc.
2.2 KCS System General
As mentioned before, the KC project has a very
specific goal: to enable individual SME's to better
solve the problems of their customers. Therefore,
KCS is focused on pursuing this goal in the first
place. Although a knowledge community
encompasses, as stated before, mechanisms that
surpass this simple instrumental goal, the initial
vision of KCS is developed from this
instrumentality. This means that KCS supports CIK
community building in a broad sense, but focused
fundamentally in generating broader and deeper
knowledge to be used in managing the SME's
customers' relationship, particularly in problem
The system (KCS) provides the following three
general functions:
1. Community building tools: this part of KCS
supports the processes of community building by
providing the instruments to foster professional
interaction and socialization. Forums and
weblogs are two of such instruments and are
tailored in KCS to be strongly integrated with the
semantic structure supporting knowledge
management in KC.
2. Semantic resources management: this is a set
of infrastructural functionalities that support
information and knowledge acquisition,
organization and storage in KCS (and also
CNM). More specifically, it enable the (i)
management of classifications, thesauri and
vocabulary, (ii) the acquisition of knowledge
from digital content (including forums and
weblogs entries, web pages, etc.) both internal to
Figure 2: The Know-Construct functional architecture.
the CIK and from external sources, (iii) the
maintenance of an ontology which is the base of
knowledge representation, access and storage.
3. Knowledge resources access: creating,
searching and updating knowledge resources will
be a fundamental set of functionalities in KCS.
Although much of the community
information/knowledge will be created in
communication/interaction processes (foruns,
weblogs), there will be also the need to
create/access knowledge in a more structured
way. Digital content management and document
management are the natural approaches
regarding this issue.
This generic architecture is represented in more
detail in Figure 2.
The identification and selection of existing
knowledge sources was the first step to build the
semantic resources structure of KCS system.
Multiple different sources' categories like
terminologies, ontologies, international
classifications, standards, norms and regulations,
national classifications were analysed. The difficulty
of this task is well known, since the different sources
are usually designed using different theoretical
grounds and design principles.
3.1 Types and Characteristics of
Knowledge Sources
According to ISO 12006-2 (ISO, 2001) the most
widely used classifications are work sections
(mainly for specifications) and elements (mainly for
cost analysis). They are also the most widely varied,
not only in their itemization and structure but also in
the range of other purposes to which they are put. As
a result of our research, several other classifications
were identified, potentially just as important, which
have not yet been used to the same degree, e.g.
construction products and properties/characteristics.
KC project is, along with the necessary
development of classifications and taxonomies that
answer the project’s needs, re-using/integrating as
far as possible existing ontologies, classification
systems and terminologies in order to develop a
system that may, in the future, contribute to
standards. The initial interaction of the KC project
with standards issues will be to assure full
compliance of the developed solution components
with the current legal and de-facto standards in the
targeted building sector and in relevant ICT
The ontologies were developed in the areas of
product characteristics, product applications and
related consultancy services. These ontologies are
crucial for the decision making support system but
also to create uniform models for customer's access.
Standard or integrating ontologies do not exist in
these areas. Furthermore, another essential
innovation, potentially contributing to Construction
Industry standards, is the development of integrating
ontologies both in the areas referred above and in
inter-enterprise interoperability. It is exploiting
proposals used or in use in other European and
international projects, in an attempt of
harmonization with the current well established
standards, also as a way to oppose the unpredictable
perennity of the stored data.
Besides CI online sites and other sources, some
of the most relevant ontologies and classifications
identified so far are: e-Cognos ontology -
Methodology, tools and architectures for electronic
consistent knowledge management across projects
and between enterprises in the construction domain;
e-Construct ontology - Electronic Communication in
the Building and Construction Industry; EPIC
European Product Information Co-Operation;
UNICLASS – Unified Classification for the
Construction Industry; IFC Model – Industry
Foundation Classes; ICIS LexiCon – International
Construction Information Society.
The identification of these sources led to the
conclusion that part of the existing information has
some common principles and structures, mostly
because they result from European or governmental
projects which also aim to contribute to
harmonization and standardization. But, its diversity,
nevertheless, puts us before the problem of how to
adapt the selected resources according to KC
project purposes and scope and the industry
consortium predefined needs, taking also into
consideration the specific cultural and professional
context of the ontology’s development and use; the
target-audience(s); the previously defined scenarios.
Table 1: Criteria for the evaluation of knowledge sources to be used in KC.
Type of source Common Criteria Description
Origin Developer(s); type of entity (CEN, ISO, DIN, other)
Relevance for the pre-defined areas of analysis; for specific cultural and professional
Adequacy from the domain expert point of view; from the ontologist point of view
Completeness explicit in-depth coverage
Comprehensiveness domains addressed in the area
Ease of data Possibility of access and reuse (merge/integrate)
Language language(s) in which it is available, multilingual features, language
Current status finished, work in progress, in revision
Specific Criteria
tual ontolo
tions and ontolo
ical commitment and their relation to KC
Type of concept identification of generic concepts and relationships, identification of domain
concepts and relationships
Design principles internal structure
Knowledge acquisition Quality of knowledge sources, adequacy of knowledge acquisition practices
Supported applications applications supporting the ontology codification language
Documentation type of documentation available and accessibility
Consistency consistency of the application of the relations
Modularity which concepts are represented in which modules
Terminology purpose operational terms – functions the terminology is intended to serve
Standardized/non- implemented as standard, other type
Granularity level of complexity of the available data
Quality of the do they follow unified patterns, are simple, clear, concise, etc.
Interconnectivity to what extent is the terminology mappable to coding systems or
Precision and recall retrieval effectiveness
Normalization of content and semantics
Responsiveness Frequency of update
Classification classification purposes and their relation to KC objectives
Conceptual framework classification assumptions and their relation to KC objectives
Classification scope Domain(s)
e of conce
ts de
ree of abstraction/s
Previous use use in ontology projects and outcome analysis
3.2 Evaluation and Selection of
Knowledge Sources
In order to choose the knowledge sources, a
complex set of multi-criteria referring to different
aspects were established. An analysis framework
was elaborated in order to evaluate the analysed
knowledge sources in what concerns to their
suitability to the KC system and methodology.
The choice of the evaluation methods to use
depends on different factors such as:
elements and indicators previously
knowledge to be represented,
stage of system development,
 time and resources available,
type of output required,
precision / reliability desired.
Along with these criteria, subject field
specialists were consulted to analyse both the
methodologies and the resulting ontology. After
this process of identification, classification and
evaluation, and taking in consideration the general
view expressed in the CWA 15142 – European
eConstruction Ontology (EeO), from the available
sources, those which, at the moment, present the
best solutions for the purpose of reuse and
integration of information and for the development
of Know-Construct high-level ontology: LexiCon,
bcBuildingDefinitions, eCognos, IFC model, ISO
12006 - 2 and 3 - Building construction —
Organization of information about construction
Table 1 describes the criteria established and
their scope inspired in the works of Pinto and
Martins (2001) and Lelkin (2004).
After the activities described above, we delineated
the adequate strategy in order to support the
structuring, maintenance and evolution of CIK
ontology and local ontologies. This level of
ontology management is necessary not only for the
initial development and maintenance of ontologies,
but it is essential during deployment, when
scalability, availability, reliability and performance
are absolutely critical.
As it had been defined in the KC proposal,
the methodology to be followed aims mainly at
identifying, evaluating and reusing existing
semantic resources, like ontologies in the IC area,
due to the advantages their reuse offers: simple
design, more reliable knowledge sharing and
clearer semantic representations. New
developments made in the construction industry
context or in any other will be submitted to the
above listed representative type of ontologies.
4.1 The Local/Global Semantic
Resources Approach
During the analysis described above, a perception
gained strength – to deal with the very concrete
reality of the Associations and SMEs of each
country, KC system would need to have a local
ontology that would answer the KC partners’
particular professional and cultural needs.
Figure 3: General structure of the KNOW-CONSTRUCT CIK Ontology.
The development of this more specific ontology
will be based on a larger, upper level ontology – the
CIK ontology, where all the central concepts of the
Construction Industry area are structured.
The perception of the need to provide tailored
support to the users was reinforced by the
conclusions of the CWA 15142 on European
eConstruction Ontology (EeO), where it is clearly
stated that the e-COGNOS vision over the
development of a big ontology was confronted with
an unexpected reality. The end users actually
showed their preferences to use their very specific,
concise and precise taxonomies. They did not want
to handle big ontologies; rather they are perfectly
happy if their small resources are in place providing
the results they are expecting. This fact has changed
the concept of the e-COGNOS ontology: the big
ontology is in place, but it is totally customisable in
the sense that a small taxonomy with 100 concepts
can replace the big one.
KC has decided to take this fact into account and
look at this possibility as part of the standardised
way to develop ontologies in the sector, but in such
an away as to keep a common central ontological
content (structure, attributes, relations, etc.) from
where to derive the more specific ontologies.
Therefore the solution proposed is to develop an
inter-organizational KM system for Construction
Industry Knowledge Communities which will be
built upo8n distributed ontologies locally managed
and centrally integrated.
The central ontology reflect standards and
related classification schemes in the industry and the
local ontologies will account for the individualised
SME conceptual schemes, i.e. they will be strongly
related to the consortium partners' needs. This
methodology results in a need to develop the two
types of ontologies in two different moments which
leads to two main concerns: 1) how to establish
through the re-use and integration of existing
ontologies (as far as possible) an adequate domain
related ontology, as well as classification system for
this sector applicable in SMEs environment, and 2)
how to assure the continuous update/maintenance of
both types of ontologies in order to enable a long life
to the knowledge systems.
4.2 Building and Integrating the
Global Ontology
Ontologies represent shared knowledge between the
parties, and result from a shared approach to a
knowledge domain. In the case of KC, the decision
to re-use and integrate available ontologies and
classifications standards in the CI area, led to an
even greater need to develop a Know-Construct
high-level ontology that would allow the integration
of these resources. In order to better answer the
needs and purposes of the CNM and KCS systems,
this ontology (named as CIK Ontology) is integrated
in the Enterprise Ontology, as defined by the
Enterprise Project by the Artificial Intelligence
Applications Institute at the University of
The following description respects only to the
CIK Ontology that defines the domain of the CI
which can be summarized in the following sentence:
The Construction Industry involves a set of
resources (Construction Resource) that follow
certain conditions (Technical Topic) which are used
or required in a process (Construction Process) that
leads to results (Construction Result).
As such, the proposed taxonomy includes four
major domains to classify these major concepts:
Construction Resource
Construction Process
Construction Result
Technical Topic
As it can be seen the first three domains coincide
with the major themes in the ISO 12006-2 standard.
The other domain (Technical Topic) is the result of
the integration of an e-COGNOS module, further
developed so as to include issues related to the CI
that are not covered by the e-COGNOS ontology
and IFC model.
4.3 Using and Integrating Local
Semantic Resources
Other well developed resources that may be useful
for the CIK ontology definition and further
development are the country specific semantic
resources. These resources are highly developed and
have been used in previous projects in the CI area
and, in the majority of the cases; they are the result
of the work of several combined institutions and
actors interested in developing the existing standards
and classifications.
These sources are mandatory for future
developments of the local ontologies, for the specific
markets and specific Costumer Needs Management
and Knowledge Community Systems, the sources
have to be defined according to the local market
context, SMEs and the Industrial
Association/Grouping needs.
They need to be an integrant part of the local
market information resources, the SMEs internal
documentation and catalogues, internal documents
and databases (contacts, material properties,
specifications, standards, prices), and the diverse
publications in the area of the CI, especially those
edited by the Associations or available in the
internet (portals, individual sites, online libraries,
newsgroups, etc.).
On a second stage of the ontology definition and
management – the establishment of the local more
specific ontologies - other more detailed local
specifications/structures will have to be considered
and developed taking into account the local/national
sources of knowledge and of knowledge
dissemination, also as a way to better address the
management of tacit knowledge and, in particular,
the social aspects of knowledge exchange.
As these sources are based on different
conceptual models, in order to integrate them we
must solve the problem of semantic heterogeneity
between them. From the review on different
approaches to support this task, we've decided to
follow the ontology mapping approach that allows
relating a portion of the source ontology to the target
ontology’s entities, transforming instances from the
source ontology into instances in the target ontology.
Ontology mapping approach allows transforming
information but doesn’t require the building of an
integrated view. So, although it’s more powerful
than simple inclusion, it avoids the complexity and
overhead of integrating multiple sources.
Given the selection, evaluation and structuring
process described in this paper, there is an high level
of probability that the CIK ontology reflects the
standards and related classification schemes in the
industry, on the one hand, and, on the other, the
local more specific ontologies will account for the
individualized SME conceptual schemes, i.e. they
will be strongly related to consortium partners'
needs, as identified in the analysis of business case
scenarios and in the users requirement definitions.
The implemented method aims at developing a
methodology of common Construction Industry
Knowledge representation applicable for large sets
of SMEs in the construction industry as a basis for
the establishment of a knowledge community.
Because of the available time frame, the
described method was not as fine grained as we
would like it to be. Therefore, further work in this
area will be directed to detail the evaluation criteria.
Next steps will involve the definition of the
ontologies and classifications maintenance
strategies. In parallel, the first prototype validation
by the users will be setup.
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