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Structures of Building Design Standards: Leveraging Network Analysis to Understand Perceived Complexity

Rogers, Chase W (2023) Structures of Building Design Standards: Leveraging Network Analysis to Understand Perceived Complexity. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Building and construction design standards can be challenging for users to efficiently navigate. The construction industry relies on standards to reduce uncertainty between stakeholders. Nascent industries (e.g., bamboo, FRP, earthen construction) can be stifled by overly complex standards, whose redevelopment cycles are often sporadic and resource intensive. Navigation through a standard is considered to play a key role in the user experience. This study explores the complexity of building design standards from the perspective of users and investigates network analysis as a tool for identifying and ultimately mitigating navigational complexity.
A survey of users of the American Concrete Institute’s (ACI) structural concrete design standard, ACI 318, found that traits of standards deemed most important by respondents were also perceived as having been improved in the extensive structural revision of ACI 318 carried out between the 2011 and 2014 editions. ACI’s stated aim was to enhance ease-of-use via alignment of the layout (structure) of the standard with the typical design workflow. The revision included only minimal changes to technical content, providing a measure of control in this study.
In this study, ACI 318-11 and ACI 318-14 were abstracted as networks composed of provisions (nodes) and references (edges). Networks were extracted from their respective texts using natural language processing techniques and enriched with semantic embeddings to investigate the relationship between structural features and ‘meaning’. Network characterization revealed several network features associated with positive and negative user experiences. Results suggest that the hierarchical structure of a design standard should mirror the mental map of the design space held by users to facilitate forward flow and efficient location of necessary provisions for a design instance.
Based on these results, a case study was conducted on the developing International Organization for Standardization (ISO) structural bamboo design standard, ISO 22156:2021. This study establishes a baseline and provides suggestions to mitigate user-perceived navigation-related complexity in the next version of ISO 22156.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rogers, Chase Wcwr20@pitt.educwr20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHarries, Kent A.kharries@pitt.edukharries0000-0002-8421-2523
Committee MemberDenton,
Committee MemberStevanovic, Aleksandarstevanovic@pitt.edustevanovic0000-0003-1091-3340
Committee MemberCasson, Leonardcasson@pitt.educasson0000-0002-4010-7684
Committee MemberSachs, Stevensgs15@pitt.edusgs150000-0002-2703-3342
Date: 14 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 April 2023
Approval Date: 14 September 2023
Submission Date: 1 March 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 276
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: building standards, network analysis, bamboo, concrete, structural design, natural language processing
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2023 13:36
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2023 13:36


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