The BIM-based knotworking model tested in pilot projects can boost construction sector productivity and project management considerably. It allows resolving conflicts effectively even before they erupt and selecting the most clever plan or mode of operation from a larger number of options.
Knotworking has already been adopted by many sectors to bring together the parties to a project and top experts to solve a common problem and ensure attainment of goals. The method has been developed by the Center for Research on Activity, Development and Learning (CRADLE) at University of Helsinki under Professor Yrjö Engeström.
– The social environment is in a constant state of flux as the actors change frequently. “Human agency capital,” consisting of both clients and users, is becoming a decisive competitive advantage. It allows staff and clients to take ownership of the operation in question and its development and ”do before they’re told,” Engeström emphasizes.
– Problems and conflicts must not be feared but turned into a tempting challenge. We are used to talking openly about problems only in narrow circles. We embellish our language when speaking to clients although we should be open and straight.
Information transfers effectively to serve as a basis for decision-making
The CRADLE research group led by Professor Reijo Miettinen, which also includes Hannele Kerosuo, Tarja Mäki and Jenni Korpela,studied the applicability of knotworking in construction projects in the Model Nova work package managed by Senate Poperties. The possibilities knotworking provides especially in making the BIM-based construction process more effective were tested in three pilot projects: two schools and one hospital renovation. The results were encouraging.
– Direct interaction, intensity and the speed at which information could be transferred and results provided to decision-makers topped the list. Reaction to alternatives was easy and the client had a much easier time creating an overall view, the construction experts summed up.
– Knotworking is applicable particularly when project requirements are complex. The essential features of knotworking are quick and graphic information exchange and creation of common understanding. They facilitate and speed up decision-making and commit the parties to the common goal, says Marko Rajala, Managing Director of Tietoa Finland Ltd.
BIM provides an excellent starting point for knotworking. However, everything does not have to be modeled and analyzed since the knot group can evaluate alternative solutions quickly on the basis of the experience and intuition of available experts. Visualization is certainly important also then!
An essential part of knotworking is to define the information required to make the right decision and determine the key performance indicators (goals and requirements) based on which decisions are made. These goals, their development and realization are monitored at knots and during knotworking. The difference compared to the typical situation today where no one has a good overall picture, i.e. does not know what the partner is doing, is considerable. The decision-maker is confounded when answers to the same question differ between actors.
Better chance to analyze a larger number of alternatives
The traditional approach in construction is to analyze one to three alternatives and choose one for closer analysis. That takes at least a couple of weeks. Pilot studies indicated that knotworking and BIM use enable analyzing 15–20 alternatives in a couple of days.
– In the future, the pace will become even faster: tools already under development will e.g. enable interactive examination of 100–200 alternatives with respect to energy efficiency. People at Stanford have estimated the number of analyzed alternatives to go even as high as 20,000. That, however, requires supercomputers, says Tuomas Laine of Granlund Ltd.
Such a huge number of alternatives cannot be analyzed by traditional means. New solutions are required that allow screening alternatives and choosing the most appropriate ones for detailed analysis. Such solutions already exist: e.g. different sensitivity analyses are used to select parameters that appear most important and visualization technology is available as a cloud service.
Based on research and pilot studies, new technology is needed especially in automated space design, cost control and related more efficient and automated BIM use, particularly in early phase cost estimations, as well as for energy and environmental solutions.
What is knotworking?
Knotworking is close cooperation between various actors and experts in connection with the design and construction process of buildings. Its aim is to make use of the best expertise of participants proactively, at the right place and time, which provides the best outcome with the best cost-effectiveness. Tasks normally performed consecutively by different special sectors are squeezed into tighter schedules and done concurrently which speeds up the building process.
Higher level knots interconnect with the stages and decision-making process of the construction project which improves the process quality and speeds up its implementation and related decision-making through close cooperation between experts. At project team-level knots experts representing different sectors come together to solve critical tasks and problems occurring at various stages of the construction project.
The working group consists of the most appropriate persons for each knot. The group lives, changes and comes together as needed; it determines its own makeup, modes and methods of work, and has neither an assigned leader nor a permanent organization. Knotworking is fast paced: when information exchange between experts and utilization of expertise is immediate, assessment of different alternatives and feedback is quick.