Last week, I introduced our multi disciplinary Construction 4.0 research team. Today I am going to overview the key research themes and programs.

Of course, in our Industry 4.0 research, there are intimately inter-connecting and should not be thought of as siloed research programs of work, but rather as integrated, interconnecting and interfacing parts of the same research program.

Data connectivity standardisation

This research will develop New Zealand’s first standardisation infrastructure for:

  1. vertical integration of construction participants’ systems; and
  2. horizontal integration of the value chain and collaborative networks.
(Refer to Figure 2)
Figure 2. Cyber-physical Construction Systems (CPCS) will be developed whereby digital twins that rely on field data are integrated with their physical counterparts to enable smart decision-making.


Circular design

The research novelty is in using Construction 4.0 enabled data to create a better design. The hypothesis is that the optimisation requirements can be fulfilled by a structural synthesis system, in which a cost/environmental impact function is minimised considering constraints on design, manufacturability etc derived from the Construction 4.0 data.

This research will identify target areas for optimisation and develop the novel models to do so.


Smart construction

This research will investigate the intrinsic properties and invariant signatures of construction objects, such as footings, slabs, beams etc, as well as their synergistic structural performance, to create a new end-to-end computational platform for design and manufacture.

This opens the door to full automation of prefabrication and modularisation, which will significantly improve building performance, environmental profile and productivity in the sector.


Monitoring 4.0

This research will develop a framework for:

  1. objective/improved monitoring and performance assessment of structural systems using in-situ data and numerical models, and
  2. optimal instrumentation plans to maximise the information gain while limiting the monitoring and instrumentation cost.

The resultant novel calibrated digital twin, as an integral part of CPCS (Figure 2, overarching standardisation program), will be used to compare the overall performance of structural systems to design expectations and identify modelling errors (thereby supporting the overarching data standardisation program, and RP1 and RP2).


Mātauranga Māori

This research aims to address the gap of knowledge that exists between Construction 4.0 and Mātauranga Māori by building a uniquely Māori framework to address the challenges of Construction 4.0.

This will create new knowledge domestically and will sit internationally as an example of indigenous knowledge. As a Construction 4.0 framework does not currently exist, this is an exciting opportunity to build in Mātauranga Māori from the onset.


Construction 4.0 technology transfer

This research will develop an alternative to traditional linear knowledge/technology transfer. It will investigate organisation and sector specific characteristics of technology transfer in New Zealand construction.

This new approach will draw on the principles of co-creating value and models for knowledge flows in innovation ecosystems, including the development and implementation of regulatory governance models and related policy by and for the sector.


Building a sustainable future

Existing greenhouse gas emission datasets (e.g. ecoInvent, BRANZ CO2NSTRUCT) for building materials and products will be adapted and extended to represent the New Zealand construction situation. They will be used to calculate the carbon footprint of the alternative prefabrication and modularisation solutions developed in RP1/2/3, and then compared with existing approaches using a whole-of-life whole-of-building modelling approach.

Their performance will be calibrated against carbon budgets based on the 1.5C global mean surface temperature target.


Computing technologies for construction 4.0

This research will investigate emerging artificial intelligence approaches (typically developed for domains outside of construction) applicable to our research programmes and adapt emerging computing techniques to the complex requirements of Construction 4.0 data.

In the following weeks, I will delve into each of these programs and themes in more detail.

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