Senior Thesis Develops New Safety Plug-in

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

This semester Dr. Eric Wetzel took part as a sponsor for the College of Engineering’s Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) senior thesis project. Dr. Wetzel’s research looks at ways to simplify the retrieval of asset specific safety information utilizing building information modeling (BIM). In collaboration with Dr. Kai Chang from CSSE, the senior group was tasked with developing an Autodesk Navisworks plug-in to present asset specific safety information within the model space. This is done by using Data Tools as a middleware between Navisworks (the graphic model space) and Excel (where the asset specific safety information can be uploaded/manipulated in bulk). With Data Tools, model elements/assets can be exported, asset specific safety information can be input into each asset, and the data can be reimported into the model space. Finally, the newly developed plug-in allows a user to simply click on an asset, run the application, and be presented with asset specific safety information. This process is greatly simplified from having to obtain comprehensive safety information from a number of resources (e.g. O&M manuals, plans, specs, MSD Sheets, etc.).

Group from left to right in image: Xizhi Geng (CSSE), David Harris (CSSE), Dr. Eric Wentzel (Sponsor, BSCI), and Branson Popp (CSSE)

New Wearable Solar Thermoelectric Generator Created

Friday, December 29, 2017

In a recent study, led by Professor Kyoung Jin Choi of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), a new advanced energy harvesting system was created that can generate electricity by merely being attached to clothing, windows, or outer walls of a structure. This new device overcomes the current issue of minimal temperature difference between body temperature and surrounding environment temperature as with standard thermoelectric generators (TEGs). By introducing a local solar absorber on a polymide (PI) substrate, the research team was able to remedy the low temperature difference and record a difference of up to 20.9 oC, which is vastly higher than the 1 – 4 oC difference of conventional wearable TEGs. Professor Choi and his team were able to design a wearable solar thermoelectric generator (W-STEG) by integrating flexible BiTe-based legs and sub-micron thick solar absorbers on a PI substrate by process of dispenser printing an ink composed of BiTe-based powders and Sb2Te3-based sintering additives dispersed in glycerol. Dr. Choi believes that this new W-STEG will serve as a catalyst to further improve the future of wearable electronic technology market.

With the micro-sized components of W-STEGs, applications in the construction industry could be feasible. Could safety vests and other PPE’s be lined with an enhanced PI substrate to generate power to charge handheld devices on-site? Could the W-STEG fabric be included as a component of exterior cladding and serve as a green component to charge and operate building electronics?

Link to full article:

Artificial 'Skin' Gives Robotic Hand a Sense of Touch

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cunjiang Yu, Bill D. Cook Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston, has created a semiconductor in a rubber composite format allowing functionality up to and beyond the material being stretched by 50%. With traditional semiconductors being very brittle and requiring complex systems of mechanical accommodations, the new discovery not only remedies the issue of flexibility, but also is more stable and less expensive. Yu and the rest of the research team were able to create and demonstrate the electronic skin’s ability to distinguish between hot and cold temperatures as well as interpret computer signals and reproduce those signals as American Sign Language. The discovery of a soft, bendable, stretchable material will impact the development of future soft wearable electronics for multiple uses, such as health monitors, medical implants, and human-machine interfaces.

For construction applications, what benefits would a wearable composite semiconductor provide? Are there safety applications to allow workers to safely detect and handle live
electrical currents, or allow for the safe recognition of materials under extreme temperatures?

Link to full article:

UAS Case Study - Curtain Wall

Monday, November 20, 2017

In 2002, construction began on a 12-story, 1 million square foot in-patient healthcare facility located in the southeastern United States. Progress came to a halt when the prior owners of the facility shuttered the project. The infrastructure, exterior shell, and five floors of interior space were near complete at that time, yet the rest of the building remained incomplete. Over a decade later, a new owner of the facility hired a general contractor to resume construction and complete the project with newly designed interior space. The building’s northwest façade was a large, convex shaped, 12-story, glass curtain wall. This curtain wall was minimally maintained for nearly a decade and its condition needed to be inspected as part of the new construction build-out on the interior. A waterproofing consultant was hired, but the significant cost of inspecting the building with swing stage led the contractor to seek ways in which this curtain wall could be alternatively inspected. Specifically, ways in which light unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to eliminate the need to put personnel in adverse conditions for inspection were to be explored.

Tangible Design: An Actuated Approach to Convert Virtual Form Into Physical Form

Monday, November 20, 2017

Computer interface is increasingly essential to visualize the design of buildings. Virtual reality involves a direct or indirect view of a real world object/idea with computer-generated information; however visualization of the constructed form(s) is still in a virtual environment. Conversion of virtual design into a physical form before execution can help all project stakeholders to visualize the design and have further meaningful discussions regarding the project. This research demonstrates the creation of a physical 3D model generated from a virtual design model. The research utilizes linear actuators combined with appropriate electrical/electronic equipment to generate the physical model by establishing a tangible user interface. A tangible user interface (TUI) is a user interface in which a person interacts with digital information through the physical environment. The purpose of TUI development is to empower collaboration, learning, and design by giving physical forms to digital information, thus taking advantage of human abilities of grasp and manipulate physical objects and materials. In order to demonstrate ideas, designers create expensive and time-consuming physical models from materials such as Balsa wood or thick cardboard. This research output can assist project stakeholders to visualize aspects of design in a physical model that can be created on the fly through the use of electronics as an exploratory implementation of small scale robotics.

Photogrammetry and Image-based Spatial Modeling in Construction, Facilities Management, and Construction Education

Monday, November 20, 2017

This research featured collaboration with software platform experts to develop a procedure to optimize the accuracy and speed of spatial image modeling. This is an essential step for evaluating the accuracy and feasibility of photogrammetry for proper activities in construction and facilities management. The PI used the 3D laser-scan point cloud of Samford Hall as a base-line, compared and contrasted it with point clouds developed in photogrammetry program from UAV photos and AuMiD14 photos. Investigators also had meetings with architects and construction and civil engineers of AU Facilities Division to discuss possible applications of photogrammetry technology for the university.

Additionally, photos were obtained through field surveys (ground and/or air base) and mining the existing AuMiD14 imagery data. Photos were processed and models created in a range of platforms including Agisoft PhotoScan, Photo Modeler, Autodesk Recap, Recap 360, and other relevant software packages.

Research Activities:

The PI captured all 37 Ground Control Points (GCP) located throughout Lee County for the AuMid14 project

The PI surveyed the site of Auburn Arena in summer of 2015 and collected the data of ground control point (GCP) and actual dimensions of this site.

The PI implemented the data and developed a scaled photogrammetry point clouds for Auburn Arena.

Developed a procedure to process the photogrammetry models from AgiSoft to Autodesk Recap, AutoCAD and Autodesk NavisWorks for design and construction related applications.

Development of Teaching Materials for Advanced Construction Survey Technology

Test test test

Monday, November 20, 2017

Advanced technology and equipment have been adopted by many contractors to innovate and improve building construction. Some of these technologies include robotic total stations, LiDAR scanners, UAVs, photogrammetry and BIM. As building science faculty, it is our responsibility to introduce these new technologies and their applications to our students in a timely matter.

This project included work with the industry professionals to identify the applications of the latest technology and equipment in construction surveying and building layout, and then developing a set of course materials for these to enhance the teaching of related class in the BSCI curriculum, such as Field Survey, CIT, Graduate IT, PC, etc. The scope focused on the following technologies:

· LiDAR scanning

· Total Station (Robotic if Available)

· BIM layout

To date 9 videos have been created for the robotic total station and these are currently in use in multiple courses (BSCI 4860 & BSCI 4990). The following is a link to the playlist for the robotic total station videos.

Mobile Devices in the Construction Management Classroom

Monday, November 20, 2017

The construction management (CM) curriculum is constantly adjusting to keep pace with changes and developments in industry. Often times, CM programs will make use of an industry advisory committee to make sure that the program remains relevant and is aligned with the needs of industry. Technology is a common subject when faculty and industry professionals converge. At times the path is clear for what needs to be done, and other times no real direction is provided to make sure that universities are doing what is necessary to meet the needs of industry. In this study, a detailed survey was administered to industry professionals with the intent of using this data to inform CM academic programs in terms of what mobile device would be best to use. Eventually, this data will prove useful in helping faculty design course curricula to include the right kind of mobile device for the right type of learning activity.

Using Radio Frequency Identification Tags to Improve Dredge Safety

Applying Real-time Location Systems to Improve Safety in Dredging Construction

Monday, November 20, 2017

Falling overboard, slips, trips and falls cause the majority of workplace injuries on dredges. Utilizing RFID technology could help reduce the number of incidents on-board, and can prevent workers from putting themselves in harm’s way before an accident occurs. In the future, the data and information gathered from these RFID tags can be stored, analyzed and organized to help develop improved work practices and training. Using RFID tags can give the dredge captain an instant notification to the dredge captain should a worker fall overboard. This has the potential reduce the number of dredging fatalities from drowning and crushing.

To perform these evaluations, workers on the dredge Terrapin wore RFID tags on a lanyard or on the front of the hardhats of workers. The RFID readers were attached to the four different control points on the dredge. The RFID readers proved to be reasonably reliable in tracking worker location on the dredge.

Based on the result of this study, the researchers believe this technology has the potential to improve safety practices in the dredging industry by providing positive worker location data. Follow-on research is required to improve the technology in order to make it more reliable before deployment in the field. If this follow on research is successful, this technology can be applied to other industries, i.e. oil rigs, commercial fishing, and other marine industries.

Qualitative Analysis of Electrical Change Orders

Monday, November 20, 2017

Quantitative change order research previously completed at two universities, including Auburn University, showed that electrical change orders were disproportionately high (16%) as compared to general contracting (5%) or mechanical (10%) construction-related change orders, on a percentage of contract value basis. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively analyze electrical change order descriptions on completed Auburn University projects to discern why this variation exists. The descriptions for 1,197 change orders (associated with 330 projects completed between 2006 and 2016) were collected, and categorized based on the 21 separate reason codes. The reason codes associated with access control/security, interior lighting, circuitry, and low voltage wiring were found to have the highest prevalence. Also, the analysis showed that many electrical change orders were related to work items accounted for by the project team during preconstruction, but not contracted for during the initial tendering stage. Hence, these additional costs, which account for 7% of the electrical change orders (as a percentage of contract value) were changes to the electrical scope of work as originally contracted, but not changes to the project itself. The results of this analysis show the value of qualitatively tracking (through codes or other methods) change orders, as opposed to purely tracking costs.

Cost Analysis of Construction Projects at Auburn University

Monday, November 20, 2017

The purpose of this study was to evaluate cost performance on projects completed by the Auburn University Facilities Management (AUFM) department. 365 large public works projects, (1) with costs between $50,000 and $5 million, and (2) completed between the years of 2009 and 2016, were quantitatively and statistically analyzed. Each project was categorized based on project size (in dollars), construction type (contracted, completed by in-house workers, combination of both), project type (new construction, renovation, etc.), and building type (housing, administration, classroom, etc.) The percent-change difference between budgeted costs and actual costs was calculated for each project, and analysis completed based on the project categorizations. The analysis showed that, on average, actual project costs were 9% lower than budged project costs on the total set of projects. A statistically significant difference was found between projects based on project size, where the percent-change averages ranged from -4% to -12%, and project type, where percent change ranged from -3% to -17%. No statistically significant difference was found between projects based on construction type or building type.

New Nano Technology Could Lift 165 Times Its Own Weight

Thursday, August 31, 2017

According to Science Daily, engineers in New Brunswick have discovered a simple, economical way to make a nano-sized device (1.6 milligrams) that can lift 265 milligrams, repetitively for hundreds of times. Could this have construction applications?

Capture + Cloud Project

3D LiDAR Scan and Photogrammetry at Auburn University Rural Studio

Friday, August 04, 2017

Please visit the below link for more information:

3D LiDAR Scan and Photogrammetry at Auburn University Rural Studio

Laser Layout Device

Get square!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Associate professor Darren Olsen has developed and patented a device to assist in accurate rectilinear layout, which could potentially provide greater quality control and minimize mistakes in a variety of construction processes. The context for his research was underground plumbing rough-in prior to pouring the concrete slab, which is a notorious source of layout problems, often found only after the concrete has cured. Professor Olsen collaborated with colleagues from Auburn’s Department of Electrical Engineering on the effort.

New Toys at BSCI

Teaching tools for using laser scanning in construction

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The McWhorter School of Building Science recently purchased a new Faro Focus 3D X-130 Laser scanner for use in research in the School, College, and beyond. The Faro scanner will compliment our Leica C-10 LiDAR scanner and other related instruments for use in research as well as in the classroom. Contact Associate Professor Junshann Liu for more details!

Turner Labs

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A shout out to Renzo di Furia and his team at Turner Lab, who recently hosted AU BSCI faculty at their Seattle facility. Cool stuff with VDC, CNC-based prefab and formwork!

In the House

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

At the 53 rd annual conference of the Associated Schools of Construction, AU Building Science was well represented in the 2017 published proceedings with over a dozen articles co-authored by faculty from Auburn.

Read More Here

Soft Robots

BSCI Faculty visit Pneubotics in San Fransisco

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On March 30th, BSCI faculty members Dr. Ben Farrow, Dr. Eric Wetzel, and Prof. Junshan Liu visited with soft-robot manufacturing start-up ‘Pneubotics’ in the Bay Area, to discuss potential utilization of robots in the construction industry. Thanks to Kevin Albert, Gabe Hein, and Henrik Bennetsen for hosting us, we look forward to collaborating in research for construction applications!

Sample Major Project

Category of Sample Major Project

Friday, April 07, 2017

Welcome To CCIC…

CCIC projects are not bound by conventional problem solving techniques. We embrace outside-the-box thinking from many disciplines, many mindsets, and many orientations. Combine that kind of diverse input, in an environment that nurtures collective brainpower, and remarkable things happen.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: They're Here

FAA approves for commercial use

Image courtesy of Jessamyn Saxon

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Since 2014, the CCIC has sponsored a variety of research involving the use of UAVs/UASs, including investigations on potential uses in construction such as progress imagery, structure and skin inspection, development of point clouds through photogrammetry, site logistics planning, and several others. Associate Professor Mark Tatum, a credentialed UAS operator as well as a licensed fixed wing pilot, leads the College’s efforts on this front. We’ve partnered with Leica Geosystems, Aibotix, Brasfield & Gorrie, Auburn University Facilities, and several other stakeholders with this technology, and hope to soon make available an elective course for BSCI students to become credentialed to fly UAS.

Construction Management at Risk

Program Development for Educating Owners and Contractors

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Construction management at risk (CM@Risk) has been a recognized project delivery method for construction projects since the 1960s. However many statutory roadblocks have prevented its implementation in many sectors of the U.S. Alabama has been among the states resisting its use on Alabama funded projects. A bill (SB289) was introduced in a previous Alabama legislative session but was defeated when it was strongly opposed by a group which represented smaller general contractors in Alabama. It is thought that Alabama will introduce a similar bill sometime in the future.

Proponents of CM@Risk point to the fact that this delivery method allows the contractor, designers and owners to work together at an early stage and reap the inherent benefits of such proaction. Detractors point out that it’s just a way to get around public bid laws and grants the larger contractors a monopolistic position. The purpose of this study was to investigate the reintroduction of CM@Risk as a delivery method and draw conclusions as to its true purpose. In order to achieve this goal, the researchers investigated the history of CM@Risk, reviewed legislation at the state level in order to determine what is and what is not allowed for publically funded state projects, and investigated changes in the state legislative policies to ascertain if any trends are in evidence as it relates to the public attitudes towards CM@Risk.

Use of Augmented Reality Devices on the Construction Site

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Virtual Reality (VR) can be described as a computer simulated near-reality. From that standpoint, it can be argued that any photorealistic computer generated image is virtual reality. Often times VR images or experiences are designed with simulating a near reality experience, through a computer screen. A VR experience designed so that the user cannot see anything other than the virtual environment created through a computer is known as ‘Immersive Virtual Reality’. The Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard are examples of Immersive VR.

This research explored ways to apply VR and AR in the construction industry, and was jointly funded by the Center for Construction Innovation and Collaboration Grant and the College of Architecture Design and Construction SEED Grant. For the purpose of this study, the Epson BT-200 device was used

Mitigating Heat Transfer from Impervious Surfaces to Stormwater Discharge Using Alternative Design Methods and Pavement Types

Friday, March 03, 2017

During the summer months in Mobile, AL it has been observed that water running over the city’s impervious surface reaches 118 degrees Fahrenheit before entering into the storm water system. This heated water travels through the storm sewer systems and is eventually discharged directly into the Mobile Bay via the city’s main storm water outflow. Once temperatures exceed 94 degrees, aquatic life starts to die off. Unfortunately following a rain event in Mobile, temperatures below outflow can be as high as 122 degrees. The situation of hot storm water discharge into an aquatic system is a form of thermal pollution. In the case of Mobile, the receiving water is home to Alabama’s seafood industry and a wide array of important economic estuary services.

This study explores pervious pavement solutions to move the storm water back into the soil instead of the bay. The green infrastructure lab explores the use of pervious pavement and other low impact strategies in reducing the temperature of water before it reaches a water body. The lab replicates the natural patterns of heating and cooling with heat lamps and irrigation systems across various pavement options.

This research will establish baseline data on the mitigation of heat transfer from pavements to storm water. This information will help contractors and designers select pavement material and other low impact design storm water control measures that will ultimately lower heat island effect and protect receiving waters from thermal pollution.

Low Cost 3D Digital Scanning and Immersive Visualization Technologies for Built Environment

Friday, March 03, 2017

The aim of this research was to investigate the low cost 3D digital scanning and immersive visualization technologies for design, construction, and facility management. The thrust of this research was to propose a solution that should be cheaper than the existing 3D laser scanners and more accurate than the photogrammetry method. For this purpose, we tested Google Tango tablet, which falls under the category of Simultaneous Localization And Mapping (SLAM) technologies. Pairing Augmented Reality (AR) with SLAM technologies can enable untethered indoor tracking of users’ location within a space through depth sensors and tracking of its movement. The specific research objectives were as follows: (1) Investigation of state-of-the-art handheld SLAM enabled devices for Onsite Scanning and BIM model development; (2) Demonstration of their applications in design, construction, and retrofitting; (3) Development of relevant examples for classroom and visitors demonstrations; and (4) Development of a framework outlining an optimized workflow for the industry. This research allowed us to explore the emerging AR and SLAM technologies which could provide significant cost and time savings within the design and construction industries. The accuracy of scans through SLAM devices is fairly reasonable especially for schematic planning. Since the consumer version of Google Tango is set to be released soon we are expecting the accuracy will improve in the new version.

A Market Survey of BIMFM Readiness Among Designers and Builders in the Southeast United States

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The use of Building Information Modeling for Facilities Management (BIMFM) uses a data loaded model as a single repository for O&M information. The BIMFM model can replace the need for referencing multiple documents (plans, specs, O&M manuals, etc.) to obtain comprehensive asset information. Previous research has shown that the implementation of BIMFM by owners is still in its infancy due to a lack of skills, quantitative ROI, and culture, however, based on data collected in this research, many owners are still requiring data loaded, as-built models. This research analyzes, with a mixed methods survey, the BIMFM market readiness of designers and builders through the lens of previous experiences with BIMFM, modeling capabilities, and company infrastructure. The survey revealed that 83.3% of the respondents have identified, bid on, or won a project that had a BIM Execution Plan/BIM Guidelines required in the contract, with 50% of the respondents executing a contract that required a data-loaded, as-built 3D model for BIMFM purposes. Although the frequency of these projects is quite low, the expertise within the majority of the companies relies on 15% or less of the managers. The market is willing to execute these contracts with the small percentage of experienced BIM experts, but future growth would require investment to develop more BIMFM experts.

LiDAR Scanning to Prefabricate Gypsum Board

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Since 2014, Associate Professor Junshan Liu and other BSCI faculty have investigated the potential to use LiDAR scanning at the in-wall inspection phase of vertical construction, to collect data that can be used to prefabricate gypsum board ‘cuts,’ which could significantly increase productivity, while decreasing waste as well as airborne particulates from the historically ‘dusty’ process of cutting boards on site. By capturing a point cloud of the metal studs and their respective in-wall rough in and penetrations, data can be used to inform cutting operations (by mechanic or by CNC). Multiple early investigations by Professor Liu and CCIC Director Dr. Paul Holley suggest that the work flow has potential.

Studio + Build

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Assistant Professors Rusty Lay (Industrial Design) and Eric Wetzel (Building Science), and CCIC Director Professor Paul Holley collaborated with construction tool manufacturer Western Forge in Fall of 2016 to develop new tool concepts, accessories, and branding strategies for the domestic tool maker. Working with a 3rd year Industrial Design studio, students and faculty interacted with end users in addition to the manufacturer to explore new solutions to potentially improve productivity and/or safety in the construction industry. Studio+Build was begun in 2006, and to date has produced hundreds of concepts, several of which have received full utility patent.