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A domain knowledge incorporated text mining approach for capturing user needs on BIM applications

Shenghua Zhou (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
S. Thomas Ng (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Sang Hoon Lee (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Frank J. Xu (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Yifan Yang (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 2 September 2019

Issue publication date: 18 February 2020



In the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, technology developers have difficulties in fully understanding user needs due to the high domain knowledge threshold and the lack of effective and efficient methods to minimise information asymmetry between technology developers and AEC users. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


A synthetic approach combining domain knowledge and text mining techniques is proposed to help capture user needs, which is demonstrated using building information modelling (BIM) apps as a case. The synthetic approach includes the: collection and cleansing of BIM apps’ attribute data and users’ comments; incorporation of domain knowledge into the collected comments; performance of a sentiment analysis to distinguish positive and negative comments; exploration of the relationships between user sentiments and BIM apps’ attributes to unveil user preferences; and establishment of a topic model to identify problems frequently raised by users.


The results show that those BIM app categories with high user interest but low sentiments or supplies, such as “reality capture”, “interoperability” and “structural simulation and analysis”, should deserve greater efforts and attention from developers. BIM apps with continual updates and of small size are more preferred by users. Problems related to the “support for new Revit”, “import & export” and “external linkage” are most frequently complained by users.


The main contributions of this work include: the innovative application of text mining techniques to identify user needs to drive BIM apps development; and the development of a synthetic approach to orchestrating domain knowledge, text mining techniques (i.e. sentiment analysis and topic modelling) and statistical methods in order to help extract user needs for promoting the success of emerging technologies in the AEC industry.



No potential conflict was reported by the authors. The authors appreciate the great selfless spirit of these voluntary contributors of open source Python libraries (e.g. NLTK, TextBlob and NumPy) and thank hundreds and thousands of BIM users from all over the world for sharing their comments on BIM applications. All appendices have been uploaded to GitHub repository. They are accessible by all researchers at:


Zhou, S., Ng, S.T., Lee, S.H., Xu, F.J. and Yang, Y. (2020), "A domain knowledge incorporated text mining approach for capturing user needs on BIM applications", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 458-482.



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