Lifting home construction into the future

Imagine semi-automatic cranes with microchips, sensors and cameras that are controlled remotely and guided by 3D-building information models. These cranes, which represent the future of home construction, are part of a new integrated model-based smart construction system that could streamline the entire construction pipeline.

The Smart and Semi-Automated Precast Elements Logistic Management and Installation System, as it is called, was invented by a team of researchers led by Assoc Prof Robert Tiong from NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

At its core, the 3D-Building Information System enables consultants, contractors, pre-casters and construction material suppliers to share and keep track of project deadlines, delivery schedules, project requirements and budgets. The Smart Tracking System monitors radio-frequency identification-tagged construction materials on their way from precast manufacturers to the construction site, enabling virtual logistics management.

Finally, by making use of real-time GPS tracking and lifting paths, cameras and a network of smart sensors across the construction site, the Smart Crane System automates quick, precise and safe hoisting of precast elements and other building materials to their desired location.

The system has already been tested on a building site in Singapore, and will be enhanced with funding from NTU’s commercialisation arm, NTUitive. Together with industry partners, the team behind the Smart Crane System & Building Information Modelling system won the 2017 Building Information Modelling GoldPlus Award (project category) from Singapore’s Building & Construction Authority.

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #12, September 2017).

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