This PhD research is part of an ongoing research effort of the building processes research group [1] at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The focus of the building processes research in Delft has been strongly on process innovation for many years. PDT, ISO-STEP, IAI-IFC, Object Trees, and other process related topics have been studied in relation to long-standing problems in the BC industry. At the time this research project was initiated, first results of new Internet developments were made public. The W3C proposed XML as the successor of HTML. XML is an interesting Internet language that separates the content of a message from its mark-up (or presentation). The resulting web page strongly resembles a HTML page, but the fact that the end-result has been created by applying a separated set of mark-up rules to the content, makes it possible to allow computer applications direct access to the content, while ignoring the human-oriented mark-up rules accompanying the message. This XML feature also supports the application of different sets of mark-up rules to the same content. Content of messages can be transformed into many forms: different natural languages, different alphabets, graphical form, voice output, dedicated application formats and much more [2].

It slowly occurred to us that XML might potentially be the missing technology the BC industry needed for a long time. Could it be possible to elevate the ICT communication to the level of our human co-workers? What if we could communicate with our instruments in the same technical terms as we use between ourselves? Would that mean that unneeded human activities can be cut out of the information chain and that humans no longer would have to function as translators between the project communications and the computer applications [3]? Would that mean a reduction in communication errors and in cost of failure? Would that speed up the process? What would the consequences be and how should this new technology be implemented?

Could it be that the missing technology is the ability for instruments to participate in human technical communication?

This realisation was the primary reason to (1) formulate an MSc thesis research project for the author of this PhD study and (2) to write a winning proposal for a European project, called eConstruct [4].

The results of the author's Master's thesis3.1 research [5] were partially adopted by the eConstruct project: eConstruct developed a mechanism that creates meaningful XML tags like <ConcreteBeam> from data items in a list (a list of `beam' types in the case of the example) [6].

After finalising his Master's thesis the author embarked on a PhD research project that wanted to look into the eFuture of BC with a special emphasis on the future role of traditional Specifications. From Specification to eSpecification, that was clear, but why, how and with which result was not clear at all.

The first two years were spend in the European eConstruct project [7], researching applicability of modern Internet technologies in the BC industry. W3C yearly develops new additions to Internet technology, RDF, XXX, YYY (sic) and lately OWL. And each new addition increases the expressiveness of the Internet. How should BC profit from this development?

Research on eSpecifications and their role in future BC processes soon showed that detailed BC Semantics should be made available on-line [8]. Specifications have a central place in the information flow in BC, providing a legal basis for contractual agreements. This requirement fitted well with the latest developments on the Internet.

Reinout van Rees 2006-12-13