Using the physical properties of artefacts to manage through-life knowledge flows in the built environment: An initial exploration

Clementinah Rooke, John Alfred Rooke, Lauri Koskela, Patricia Tzortzopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Effective through-life management of built facilities requires effective through-life knowledge management to support it. The KIM (Immortal Information and Through-Life Knowledge Management) project attempted to develop such an approach, based on a dichotomy of knowledge and information. Knowledge is conceived in terms of communities of practice. An initial philosophical analysis demonstrates deficiencies in this conception. Drawing inspiration from production theory, a tripartite analysis is offered, suggesting that knowledge flows consist of: social practices, information and physical properties. Literature on physical properties from design studies, production management and ethnomethodology is briefly reviewed to demonstrate the information bearing functions of physical properties. Fieldwork conforming to the unique adequacy requirement of methods was carried out on construction sites, in hotel and hospital facilities during the use stage of their life cycles. Safety barriers on construction sites were found to have informational properties beyond their function as a physical barrier. The quality of information delivered by wayfinding signs was found to depend upon both the physical placement of the signs in relation to the surrounding environment and the physical layout of the sign itself. It was found that social practices are institutionalized to repair the knowledge flow when the physically instantiated wayfinding system breaks down. Finally, through the investigation of practices surrounding emergency resuscitation equipment, it was found that if the physical properties of information are not designed to mesh with the work practices of the setting, this will lead to a breakdown in the knowledge flow. It is suggested that elements of knowledge management, ethnomethodology, production management and design studies might be integrated to form the basis of a hybrid discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-613
Number of pages13
JournalConstruction Management and Economics
Issue number6
Early online date18 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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