Towards Cyber-physical Systems Integration in Construction

Open Access
Akanmu, Abiola Abosede
Graduate Program:
Architectural Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 12, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Chinemelu Jidenka Anumba, Dissertation Advisor
  • Chinemelu Jidenka Anumba, Committee Chair
  • John Messner, Committee Member
  • Stephen James Treado, Committee Member
  • John Yen, Committee Member
  • Virtual Models
  • Physical Construction
  • Cyber-Physical Systems
  • Bi-directional Coordination
There is an increasing growth in the use of virtual models in the construction industry. Virtual models offer huge potential in construction projects as a mean of collaboration, integration and communication. Virtual models also offer huge benefit in enabling documentation of as-built information. Despite the benefits of virtual models, their use is often limited to the design and tendering/bidding stage. Much more benefit can be derived from these models by extending their use to the construction and operations and maintenance phases of a facility’s lifecycle. A good way of achieving this involves real-time bi-directional coordination between virtual models and the physical construction. To maintain bi-directional coordination, computational resources are required to tightly integrate the virtual models and the physical construction such that changes in one environment are automatically reflected in the other. This is termed a cyber-physical systems approach. This research was concerned with investigating the applicability of a cyber-physical systems approach in the construction industry for real-time consistency checking between virtual models and the physical construction. A variety of research methods was adopted in the conduct of the research. A literature review was undertaken on cyber-physical systems, related integration efforts and enabling technologies in the construction industry and other industry sectors. This review enabled the identification of suitable technologies and opportunities for improvements to existing approaches. To illustrate the applicability of cyber-physical systems in realistic construction situations, four use case scenarios were developed and analyzed with industry experts. The scenarios illustrate how cyber-physical systems approach can be used to enhance the steel erection process, notify door placement changes on a retrofit project, track changes to engineered components, and track and control bulk components during a facility lifecycle. Two prototype systems were developed, one of which was evaluated with a group of industry practitioners. The developed systems illustrate how current construction practices can be enhanced and also shows the wider benefits of the proposed approach for the construction industry. These benefits include access to real-time progress information which will aid the construction project team in quick decision making and the potential for enhancing real-time communication and collaboration between the personnel on the job site and the office. Another benefit is that the proposed approach can facilitate improvements in facility management practices by enhancing the current process of as-built documentation, which will aid performance monitoring and control of the constructed facility. By demonstrating the potential of the cyber-physical systems integration approach, this research has opened the door to new CPS applications in the construction industry.