This paper describes OARPLAN, a prototype planning system that generates construction project plans from a description of the objects that comprise the completed facility. OARPLAN is based upon the notion that activities in a project plan can be viewed as intersections of their constituents: objects, actions and resources. Planning knowledge in OARPLAN is represented as constraints based on activity constituents and their interrelationships; the planner functions as a constraint satisfaction engine that attempts to satisfy these constraints. The goal of the OARPLAN project is to develop a planning shell for construction projects that (i) provides a natural and powerful constraint language for expressing knowledge about construction planning, and (ii) generates a facility construction plan by satisfying constraints expressed in this language.
To generate its construction plan, OARPLAN must be supplied with extensive knowledge about construction objects, actions and resources, and about spatial, topological, temporal and other relations that may exist between them. We suggest that much of the knowledge required to plan the construction of a given facility can be drawn directly from a three-dimensional CAD model of the facility, and from a variety of databases currently used in design and project management software. In the prototype OARPLAN system, facility data must be input directly as frames. However, we are collaborating with database researchers to develop intelligent interfaces to such sources of planning data, so that OARPLAN will eventually be able to send high level queries to an intelligent database access system without regard for the particular CAD system in which the project was designed.
We begin by explaining why classical AI planners and domain specific expert system approaches are both inadequate for the task of generating construction project plans. We describe the activity representation developed in OARPLAN and demonstrate its use in producing a plan of about 50 activities for a steel-frame building, based on spatial and topological constraints that express structural support, weather protection and safety concerns in construction planning. We conclude with a discussion of the research issues raised by our experiments with OARPLAN to date.