Introduction

This book is about the foundations and principles of building information, its representation and management. It does not tell you which software or policies to choose for representing buildings and managing the resulting information. In fact, the book argues that one should not start with practical steps before fully understanding the reasoning behind any such choice. The basis of this reasoning comprises the structure of information and of the representations that contain it, the purposes of managing information in the context of these representations and the processes in which the representations are used; in a nutshell, how information relates to a specific domain. Without adequate reasoning that takes into account all syntactic, semantic and pragmatic aspects, adopting one software or another, implementing one practical measure or another simply subjugates information processing to some prescriptive or proscriptive framework that may be unproductive, incompatible or inappropriate for the domain.

To explain these foundations and principles, the book brings together knowledge from various areas, including philosophy and computer science. Its perspective, nevertheless, remains bounded by the application domain: external knowledge is not imposed on domain practices but used to elucidate domain knowledge. Building information has its own peculiarities, drawn more from convention than necessity, and digitization has yet to address such matters, let alone resolve them. General knowledge about information and representation can be of assistance in developing approaches fit for the digital era. The approach advocated in this book is above all parsimonious: in a world inundated with digital information (Chapter 1), one should not resort to brute force and store or process everything. Instead, one should organize information intelligently, so that everything remains accessible but with less and more focused effort.

The first part of the book focuses on representation: many of the problems surrounding information and its management stem from a lack of understanding that most information, certainly regarding buildings, comes organized into representations. Knowing the structure of these representations provides insights into how information is produced and processed. Chapter 2 explains symbolic representations and analyses familiar spatial representations from the symbolic perspective. The analogue representations that still dominate building information are the subject of Chapter 3. Digitization is primarily considered with respect to BIM, as the first generation of truly symbolic digital building representations (Chapter 4).

Information theory and management are the subjects of the second part of the book. Particular emphasis is on the meaning of information (semantics) as a foundation for utility and relevance. For this reason, this part starts by introducing a semantic theory of information that complements symbolic representation (Chapter 5). Next, Chapter 6 explains information management and how it applies to building information and BIM, concluding with the principles that should guide building information management. Chapter 7 rounds off the second part by explaining how one can represent processes and the information contained in them.

Having explained the foundations and principles of representation and information management, the book concludes with some larger exercises, which can be used as individual or group assignments. Through these exercises, readers can test their understanding of the approach advocated in this book and hone their skills for its application in research or practice. 

 

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