Robotic data collection and simulation for evaluation of building retrofit performance


In the United States alone, buildings are responsible for 40% of the total energy consumption. Going with the current trends, future demands are expected to escalate thereby overstraining the presently inadequate energy sources. As such, reducing energy consumption in buildings is a crucial aspect for the development and sustainability of future modern cities/homes. The first step in minimizing energy use, is by first knowing how the energy is spent or utilized before retrofitting is undertaken. These data help in making retrofitting decisions. Presently, existing plausible literature has shown that collection of the required data involves the use of manual systems- which are tedious and time consuming, or the use of Building Automation Systems (BAS) and sensors- which have prohibitive installation costs and not suitable for antique buildings. Therefore, since it is apparent that a substantial amount of data needs to be continuously collected, managed, and analyzed in a building at the room and floor level in order to effectively optimize energy use in buildings, it is imperative that a smart data collection system that overcomes the enlisted shortcomings be developed.

To this note, University of Michigan scientists: Dr. Bharadwaj Mantha (currently post-doctoral fellow), Professor Carol Menassa and Professor Vineet Kamat from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering developed a framework that used autonomous mobile indoor robots for gathering actionable building information in real-time. They also showed how the collected information could be used for various analyses and critical decision-making. In particular, they developed a generic frame work for making informed retrofit decisions with the help of robot collected data. Their work is currently published in the research journal, Automation in Construction.

In brief, the researchers first built an autonomous indoor robot installed with RGB cameras and sparse sensors. Next, they developed navigation and drift correction algorithms for the autonomous robot operation. The navigation system was then tested in a large area. Lastly, a case study was performed so as to demonstrate the informed retrofit decision-making process with the help of temperature data collected by a robot and subsequently used in an EnergyPlus simulation.

The authors observed that the simulations undertaken demonstrated the feasibility of their approach along with its energy saving potential. Specifically, simulated annual energy savings of 3% were obtained by slightly modifying the R-values of one of the external wall assemblies. In addition, the analysis results illustrated how the proposed approach could be used to make informed retrofit decisions.

In summary, the study by University of Michigan researchers presented a novel data collection approach for ambient parameters, that utilize mobile autonomous robots mounted with sparse sensors that provide real-time data regarding parameters of interest. Generally, good energy saving levels were achieved for the wall used in the case study, and the saving could be larger if the whole building retrofit and upgrade of material was to be performed. Altogether, the proposed framework offers promise in improving the energy efficiency by extending the approach to other combinations of building materials. It also offers an efficient and economical technique for data collection that outperforms its predecessors.

Robotic data collection and simulation for evaluation of building retrofit performance - Advances in Engineering

Robotic data collection evaluation-building-retrofit-performance-Advances-in-Engineering

About the author

Bharadwaj R. K. Mantha is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Division of Engineering at the New York University, Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), UAE. He earned his Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Masters in Construction Engineering and Management from University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor, USA and his Bachelors in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology Durgapur (NIT-DGP), India. Before joining UM, he worked as an assistant manager in a real estate firm, Bharti Realty Limited (BRL), India, where he was responsible for managing, monitoring, and executing onsite civil works for building projects. One of the notable achievements includes the successful completion of the 1000 metric tons structural steel design, fabrication, and execution works.

He is currently leading the sustainability and robotics technology related research activities in the Sustainable Modularization Artificial Intelligence Robotics Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) construction research group at NYUAD. His research focuses on developing technological solutions to monitor, control, and sustainably operate buildings and civil infrastructure systems. To achieve this objective, he explores interdisciplinary approaches that use tools, methods, and frameworks from robotics, data analytics, simulation, and modeling. Specifically, some of his current research efforts focus on investigating the cyber vulnerability of smart and connected construction sites and feasibility of semi and fully autonomous multi-agent based construction 3D printing systems. He authored several publications in highly ranked journals such as Automation in Construction and Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering.

He is the recipient of the prestigious Rackham Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and John L. Tishman Masters Fellowship at UM, and Intern Abroad Fellowship at NIT-DGP. He also received the 2016 Best Paper Award from International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction. He is an honorary member of the oldest and most selective honor societies such as Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi. He is often involved in voluntary, community, and service activities. Some of the key roles include Moderator for Corporate Social Responsibility in BRL; Planning Committee in Association for India’s Development, Project Leader in Tau Beta Pi, and Session Chair in Engineering Graduate Symposium at UM.

About the author

Carol C. Menassa is an Associate Professor and John L. Tishman Faculty Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan (U-M). Prior to joining the faculty at U-M, she was the M.A. Mortenson Company Assistant Professor of Construction Engineering and Management at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She received her PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering and MS in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and her MS and BE in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the American University of Beirut.

Carol directs the Intelligent and Sustainable Civil Infrastructure Systems Laboratory at U-M. Her research focuses on understanding and modeling the interconnections between humans and the built environment. She is using building automation systems and other sensing devices to understand and model the impact of occupant energy use characteristics on energy consumption in buildings, and develop cost effective solutions to achieve energy efficiency and conservation by engaging the occupants and other building stakeholders in the decision making process. In addition, her research group focuses on understanding the effect of the built environment on human comfort, well-being and accessibility issues through data collection from non-intrusive devices in single and multi-occupancy space, and development of personalized localization and path planning methods to assist people with physical disabilities in navigating unknown building environments. Carol’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Construction Industry Institute (CII) and other agencies.

Carol is an active member of the Construction Industry Institute, and currently serves as Vice Chair for the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) Construction Research Congress Executive Committee.

Carol is the recipient of the ASCE 2017 Daniel Halpin Award, ASCE 2017 Alfred Noble Prize, 2017 Outstanding Early Career Researcher from Fiatech, 2015 CII Distinguished Professor Award and 2014 NSF Career award. She also received the 2016 Best Paper Award from the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction, and the 2015 Best Paper Award from the Journal of Management in Engineering.

Carol has more than eight years of industry experience as a Project Engineer with Dar Al Handasah – Shair and Partners, and a Summer Associate with CRA International.

Carol is an Associate Editor for the ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering and Assistant Specialty Editor for the ASCE Journal of Construction Engineering and Management.

About the author

Dr.Vineet R. Kamat is a Professor and the John L. Tishman Faculty Scholar in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. He directs the Laboratory for Interactive Visualization in Engineering and co-directs the Construction Engineering Laboratory. Dr. Kamat’s research is primarily focused on Virtual and Augmented Reality Visualization, Simulation, Mobile Computing, Robotics, and their applications in Construction. Dr. Kamat was awarded the 2015 Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize by the American Society of Civil Engineers. He has also received the Daniel W. Halpin Award for scholarship in construction from the American Society of Civil Engineers; the Outstanding Early Career Researcher Award from FIATECH; and two Outstanding Young Alumnus Awards from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. He has also received three ASCE Best Paper Awards, from the Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering, and the Construction Research Congress. He received a NSF CAREER Award in 2005. 

Dr.  Kamat is an Associate Editor of the ASCE Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering and a member of the editorial board for the journal Automation in Construction and the journal Advanced Engineering Informatics. He has served as the Chair of the ASCE Construction Institute’s Construction Research Council, and as a Member of the Board of Governors of the ASCE Construction Institute. He has also served as the Chair of the ASCE Visualization, Information Modeling and Simulation committee. Dr. Kamat’s research has been published in 55 peer-reviewed journal publications and 65 conference papers to date. He has presented his work in 32 invited talks throughout the world and has organized several technical sessions on construction visualization at all major conferences in his field of research. Dr. Kamat received a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2003; a MS in Civil Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2000; and a BE degree in Civil Engineering from Goa University in India in 1998.

You can find his website at 


Bharadwaj R.K. Mantha, Carol C. Menassa, Vineet R. Kamat. Robotic data collection and simulation for evaluation of building retrofit performance. Automation in Construction, volume 92 (2018) page 88–102.

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