An internet-based system to support interdisciplinary and inter-organisational collaborative conceptual design

This paper builds on work presented at the last two CIBSE conferences, and describes the development of an Internet-based design tool to support interdisciplinary teams during the conceptual phase of the design process. Originally, devised as a paper-based framework comprising five phases and twelve activities, the interactive internet-based version accords well with the richly iterative and often non-linear process which design typically follows. The tool is intended to encourage inspirational concept design without imposing a rigid procedure. As well as offering alternative routes through concept design, the tool contains ‘team thinking tools’ to help designers widen the solution space, set priorities and evaluate options. In addition, drawing on management science literature about effective teamwork practices, it helps a team deal with social interactions. Also, at the user’s option, the system can be used to capture, store and retrieve decisions made, and the reasoning behind them. Overall the system, which exists as a working prototype, offers the combined prospects of decision support, an audit trail, and improved knowledge management. The prototype is available openly on the web, and constructive feedback from users is welcomed. At least one of the collaborating organisations is adapting the system to its individual needs and embedding it within its own operating procedures.