On-site visualization of building component erection enabled by integration of four-dimensional modeling and automated surveying

Xiong Liang, Ming Lu, Jian-Ping Zhang
Automation in Construction, Volume 20, Issue 3, May 2011


This research develops a new methodology for seamless integration of automated construction surveying with four-dimensional (4D) modeling in order to improve current practices of building component positioning and erection in terms of efficiency and quality. The building production models are represented in 4D and generated in consideration of construction engineering constraints, such as lifting capacity of tower cranes, construction method and activity sequence. The surveying data include identification, surveying time and coordinates of a limited quantity of tracking points that are marked on a building component. The data are processed using a special algorithm to derive transformation matrices, which encode movements and rotations of a solid object in the 3D space. As a result, the 3D model of the building component is updated to mirror its actual motion in the site during installation operations. Furthermore, by comparing the as-designed model and the actual model of the building product, any deviations between them are determined in terms of position offsets and rotation angles, which facilitate follow-up adjustment operations. A software system named as 4D-PosCon (acronyms of four-dimensional positioning controller) was prototyped based on the proposed methodology. Laboratory experiments were designed and carried out, validating the proposed methodology and demonstrating the prototype system of 4D-PosCon. In conclusion, the resulting 4D visualization is effective to facilitate positioning control in erecting a building component by providing intuitive perception and accurate comprehension of the relative orientation and position of the building component in reference to its final as-designed state.

This research has developed algorithms and a cost-effective computational framework to track minimum control points in order to position building elements on construction sites. In doing so, the research has explored a critical question in the construction industry: How does one make design-centric 3D building information models relevant and indispensable to facilitating onsite construction operations? Through addressing this question, the research has the potential to produce tangible gains in site performance, most notably in the areas of productivity, quality and safety. Furthermore, the research results could assist the construction industry in integrating and capitalizing on enabling technologies such as survey robots, wireless networks, iPad, and virtual reality. With its success in studying building components, the research is being extended to simplify positioning and 3D modeling of major construction equipment onsite, such as tunnel boring machines, cranes, and excavators.

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