Distributed Participatory Design in Multidisciplinary Engineering Projects: Investigating a Sustainable Approach for Ship Design & Construction
Naval architecture design procedures focus primarily on the technical aspects of engineering specifications, mission requirements and overall survivability of ships and marine structures. In contrast, often little attention or importance is placed on the operational demands of onboard crew and the detailed design characteristics of a ship’s work environment. However, the design and layout of a ship’s work environment influences how crew execute their tasks. Ship designs not optimized for crew and their work demands can contribute to decreased safety and efficiency, while increasing the physical demands of onboard operations. Inadequate design is a common causal factor of maritime accidents, and thus, should be addressed and mitigated during conceptual design development.
The aim of this thesis is to investigate and identify strategies that facilitate the implementation of user-centred design solutions during new ship development, and ultimately optimize the onboard work environment for crew. This thesis has a design-centred scope which explores and develops pragmatic methods and tools to improve knowledge mobilization and participatory design processes between multidisciplinary, geographically-distributed stakeholders involved in new ship development.
This research confirms that general arrangement drawings are an effective, pragmatic participatory platform that designers, users and ergonomists can utilize as a communication tool for early evaluation and design input. Visual representations of a ship’s structure and work environment facilitates storytelling and contextualizes highly specialized, tacit crew knowledge and experiences. This allows for design decision-making to be openly discussed, visualized and optimized through tangible, highly iterative processes and directly validated by subject-matter experts. Results from this research were used to develop the software prototype, E-SET, which uses digital general arrangement drawings and ship renderings as a participatory platform for crowdsourced evaluation and input. The prototype’s usability was tested by naval architecture graduate students, while the adoption of new technology and ergonomics applications in ship design projects was further investigated.
Ergonomics, as a discipline, must demonstrate tangible added value to traditional engineering design processes in order to motivate industry stakeholder buy-in. Ergonomics applications will be more likely utilized by naval architects and applied within the shipping industry if the tools and methodologies developed are not only usable and convenient, but produce measurable and cost-effective outcomes. However, before ergonomics is to make a meaningful and widespread impact within shipping the attitudes and cultural norms of the industry must evolve as a precondition for knowledge transfer to successfully occur.