In architectural design and the construction industry, there is insufficient evidence about the way designers collaborate in their normal working environments using both traditional and digital media. It is this gap in empirical evidence that the CRC project, “Team Collaboration in High Bandwidth Virtual Environments” addresses. The project is primarily, but not exclusively, concerned with the conceptual stages of design carried out by professional designers working in different offices. The aim is to increase opportunities for communication and interaction between people in geographically distant locations in order to improve the quality of collaboration. In order to understand the practical implications of introducing new digital tools on working practices, research into how designers work collaboratively using both traditional and digital media is being undertaken. This will involve a series of empirical studies in the work places of the industry partners in the project. The studies of collaboration processes will provide empirical results that will lead to more effective use of virtual environments in design and construction processes. The report describes the research approach, the industry study, the methods for data collection and analysis and the foundation research methodologies. A distinctive aspect is that the research has been devised to enable field studies to be undertaken in a live industrial environment where the participant designers carry out real projects alongside their colleagues and in familiar locations. There are two basic research objectives: one is to obtain evidence about design practice that will inform the architecture and construction industries about the impact and potential benefit of using digital collaboration technologies; the second is to add to long term research knowledge of human cognitive and behavioural processes based on real world data. In order to achieve this, the research methods must be able to acquire a rich and heterogeneous set of data from design activities as they are carried out in the normal working environment. This places different demands upon the data collection and analysis methods to those of laboratory studies where controlled conditions are required. In order to address this, the research approach that has been adopted is ethnographic in nature and case study-based. The plan is to carry out a series of indepth studies in order to provide baseline results for future research across a wider community of user groups. An important objective has been to develop a methodology that will produce valid, significant and transferable results. The research will contribute to knowledge about how architectural design and the construction industry may benefit from the introduction of leading edge collaboration technologies. The outcomes will provide a sound foundation for the production of guidelines for the assessment of high bandwidth tools and their future deployment. The knowledge will form the basis for the specification of future collaboration products and collaboration processes. This project directly addresses the industry-identified focus on cultural change, image, e-project management, and innovative methods
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