Over the past decades, ship design has seen an increased digitalization and the use of more powerful computers to assist in design tasks, such as concept design generation or analysis. Also, the application of concurrent engineering or concurrent design processes shows an attention for ship design as a field of multi-actor decision-making. Contrary to traditional `over-the-wall’ approaches, such concurrent, or collaborative, design processes are applied to involve all relevant stakeholders and design disciplines in the decision-making. The aim is to be better able to integrate disparate knowledge, experience, and preferences, as well as to build consensus among stakeholders. This is essential, since early stage naval ship design has frequently been described as a wicked problem, as it is not only the product (i.e. the ship) which is still fluid, but more importantly the required performance (i.e. the requirements) which are fluid. From a general multi-actor decision-making perspective, wicked problems can be described as a type of problems where there is a lack of consensus on both the problem and solution to the problem. In naval ship design, wicked problems involve an inherent relationship between defining requirements and generating concepts designs to fulfil these requirements. Such concept designs are essential to investigate technical and financial feasibility of these requirements. Earlier research in early stage ship design has focussed on developing tools and processes to help naval architects generate concept designs for varying requirements. Over time, such tools have become increasingly applicable for real-time collaborative design-decision making by providing rapid insights into consequences of design decisions. Other research concentrated on understanding concept designs, by analysing performance of generated concept designs or by identifying design drivers based on basic design input information. Research on design rationale, i.e. reasons behind design decisions, has shown that such rationale 1) can be made explicit, 2) can be used to analyse designs, and 3) can be used to identify design drivers. However, how such design rationale is best applied within the design task itself, in the context of real-time collaborative design, is yet to be fully understood. This paper investigates the key challenges and opportunities for incorporating design rationale capturing and reuse during collaborative design. The primary focus is on ship layout design. Then, a set of method requirements, aiming to overcome identified key challenges, will be deduced. Subsequently, a method integrating interactive ship layout design tools and real-time design rationale capture, analysis and feedback, will be introduced. Specifically, a rationale representation has been developed that requires low capturing effort and yet provides useful context for design discussions. These rationales are 1) captured in an overview next to the layout under consideration, 2) added as annotations to the design, 3) used in first-order performance calculations, and 4) evaluated for satisfaction and conflicts with other rationales. Finally, a qualitative proof-of-concept case study will be presented to illustrate how the developed method can support collaborative design during early stage ship design. The paper will close with suggestions for further development and field testing of the methodology.

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