Islands of Automation

Chris Steins's picture
Why should architects, planners, and developers be concerned about software interoperability and open standards for data exchange? Communication and the exchange of data between partners in a development project is crucial to the success of the project. Anyone who has been involved in a construction project before knows how many opportunities exist to mis-interpret even the smallest detail on a plan.

Architect Jonathan Cohen concludes in Islands of Automation -- an article from his great monthly newsletter, that the architecture, planning and building communities need to standardize on methods for transferring information used in the building process -- RFPs, construction drawings, blueprints, specifications, etc.

Cohen comes to the conclusion that an XML standard for these industries is the way to go, and points to the Green Building XML Schema as model.

"XML tags can identify every attribute of products and building components, from bending strength to reflectivity. In fact, XML could be used to describe virtually all the objects, documents, services, and organizations needed to complete a project."

RealityWave's VizStream PlatformCohen recommends using a "shared project model", which replace individual paper or electronic documents with a single knowledge base describing an entire project. All the project participants would have access to the model throughout the life of the project. The model uses an "object oriented" approach, where every object -- a door for example -- has certain properties that define the exact nature of the door (dimensions, materials, color, etc.). The object oriented approach has been used in the computer software industry for several years.

All of this harkens back to a Planning article from 1999 "X Marks the Spot" where we proposed that the time had come for development of a system for sharing data in the field of planning. I would be fascinated to learn about other efforts that have used or plan to use XML for planning & architecture.
Chris Steins is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Planetizen.


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