Epistemology-Based Context-Aware Semantic Model for Sustainable Construction Practices

Lu Zhang, Nora El-Gohary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the key factors for enabling sustainable construction is promoting the acquisition of knowledge about sustainable construction practices (SCPs). Information retrieval (IR) is at the heart of knowledge acquisition. However, retrieving the right information about SCPs for the right context is not an easy task; information about SCPs is complex, interdisciplinary, multifaceted, and context sensitive. To enhance the process of IR, there has been recent calls for an information systems epistemology (the theory of knowledge and knowing) to support enhanced design and use of information systems based on a better understanding of knowledge and knowing. To address this need, this paper proposes an epistemology-based semantic model for representing and reasoning - in a context-aware manner - about the knowledge of SCPs and the process of knowing (i.e., acquiring) this knowledge. The proposed semantic model of SCPs is composed of a hierarchy of concepts, interconcept relations, and axioms. The model is intended to facilitate domain-specific, context-aware retrieval of information about SCPs. The model was evaluated through answering competency questions, automated consistency and redundancy checking, expert interviews, and application-oriented evaluation. The model was implemented in an IR system and has shown to improve the retrieval results significantly. This research contributes to the body of knowledge by offering an epistemology-based semantic model for supporting the retrieval of more relevant and specific information based on multidimensional contexts. The model, and its implementation in the IR system, would allow construction professionals, stakeholders, and information users to retrieve more relevant information about SCPs, which would in turn support enhanced decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04015084
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Context awareness
  • Epistemology
  • Information retrieval
  • Information technologies
  • Sustainable construction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management

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