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A semantic system for stakeholder-sensitive planning and design of sustainable civil infrastructure systems

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Title: A semantic system for stakeholder-sensitive planning and design of sustainable civil infrastructure systems
Author(s): Mostafa, Mostafa A.
Advisor(s): ElGohary, Nora M.
Department / Program: Civil & Environmental Eng
Discipline: Civil Engineering
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.S.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): Construction infrastructure stakeholder social welfare function sustainability planning design civil ontology semantic prototype inequality poverty benefit
Abstract: There has been an increasing demand for involving stakeholders in the development of sustainable civil infrastructure systems. It has been acknowledged that one key element of a project is stakeholder involvement. As such, failure to successfully involve the stakeholders of an infrastructure project in its planning and design can drive the failure of the entire project. However, stakeholder involvement practices are in many cases unsuccessful due to a set of gaps in the following areas: 1) Time of stakeholder involvement: stakeholders are not involved early enough in the project lifecycle; 2) Depth of stakeholder involvement: stakeholders are not adequately and actively involved in generating project alternatives; 3) Transparency and systematicness in decision-making: There is a lack of transparent, systematic methods for conducting stakeholder involvement and accordingly analyzing the different alternatives; and 4) Method of alternative analysis (impact assessment vs. benefit assessment): In the context of infrastructure planning and design, impact assessment has been utilized in the evaluation of alternatives without incorporating benefit assessment as a major criterion in the analysis. Thus, the focus has been on reducing the negative impacts of infrastructure development without adequate consideration of how to increase the collective benefits to the stakeholders. These gaps indicate the need for improving the stakeholder involvement process. There is a need for a process that engages stakeholders actively and early, as well as uses transparent, systematic, and benefit-centric decision-making methods for conducting stakeholder-centric analysis of project alternatives. Benefit assessment has been in many cases conducted in the form of cost-benefit analysis (CBA). However, a critical analysis of CBA in the context of infrastructure project planning and design (and in particular the evaluation of project alternatives) reveals the following two drawbacks: 1) Overemphasizing cost relative to benefits: The use of CBA has been controversial, because it studies benefits in the form of a comparison to the costs associated with achieving these benefits. This has been criticized for creating a strong presumption that a decision should not be made (or an alternative should not be selected) unless its benefits outweigh or justify its costs, and therefore overemphasizing cost as a criterion in the assessment and selection of alternatives; 2) Not accounting for the sensitivity of benefit assessment to stakeholders’ viewpoints: Benefit assessment is inherently subjective and sensitive to stakeholders’ opinions/preferences; i.e. benefit assessment is stakeholder-sensitive. Yet, benefit assessment during CBA is, commonly, carried out by analysts as a supposedly neutral, mathematical way of determining the benefits of an alternative; thereby not accounting for its sensitivity to stakeholders’ viewpoints. As such, four main requirements of a stakeholder-sensitive, sustainability-oriented benefit analysis of infrastructure project alternatives were defined: 1) Avoiding overemphasis on cost as a criterion in the assessment and selection of project alternatives, 2) Addressing the stakeholder-sensitivity of the analysis to account for the fact that each stakeholder benefits differently from an infrastructure project alternative, 3) Addressing fairness in the distribution of potential benefits among stakeholders, and 4) Incorporating sustainability in the benefit analysis, thereby analyzing project alternatives in terms of their collective social, environmental, and economic benefits to the stakeholders. To address the above requirements, this research developed a semantic system for stakeholder-sensitive benefit analysis of infrastructure project alternatives to support the development of sustainable civil infrastructure systems. First, a decision-making analysis method for stakeholder-sensitive, sustainability-oriented benefit analysis of infrastructure project alternatives was developed. The aim of this method is to provide a systematic way for analyzing project alternatives in terms of their collective social, environmental, and economic benefits to the stakeholders. The method evaluates infrastructure project alternatives based on a proposed sustainable construction social welfare function (SC-SWF). The SC-SWF is a measure of the collective benefits to all stakeholders. Second, an ontology for stakeholder involvement during infrastructure project planning and design (SI-Onto) was developed. The aim of this ontology is to provide a semantic representation of the proposed analysis method in the form of an ontological model. Third, the decision-making analysis method and the SI-Onto were implemented into a prototype software. The aim of the prototype software is to provide a tool for conducting a stakeholder-sensitive, sustainability-oriented benefit analysis of infrastructure project alternatives in an automated manner. The research results were evaluated using several test cases and two case studies of transportation projects.
Issue Date: 2011-08-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/26245
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Mostafa A. Mostafa
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-08-25
Date Deposited: 2011-08
 

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