DBL Shares BIM and IoT Research at Annual Meeting

Thanos Economou makes a presentation during the meeting.

By Isra Hassan Atlanta, GA

The Digital Building Lab (DBL) members' meeting takes place each year during the summer to bring together DBL members for workshops and presentations conducted by Georgia Tech professors and students.

This meeting showcases the research that is funded annually by DBL members. The occasion also brings together graduate students and professors seeking funding from Digital Building Lab members. This year the meeting was held May 3-4 at the Caddell Flex Space, with 63 people in attendance.

Who Are the DBL Members?

The Digital Building Lab membership consists of industry firms, which pay an annual fee to become partners of the DBL and collaborate on research.

The Digital Building Lab is at the leading edge in building information modeling (BIM), computation design, smart buildings environment infrastructure, data standards, and interoperability research through state-of-the-art technology.

Day 1 Focused on Emerging Technologies

For day one of the meeting, DBL Director Dennis Shelden kicked off events with an introductory welcome.

The day included four half-day workshops on emerging technologies and their applications to the field. Following Shelden’s welcome speech, the participants, which included DBL members, faculty, and graduate students, split into two morning technology workshops led by Georgia Tech faculty and scholars.

The first morning track workshop, titled “Blockchain for Construction,” was led by DBL research scientist Sinisa Kolaric; assistant professor Pardis Pishdad- Bozorgi from the School of Building Construction; and IMAGINE Lab research scientist Matt Swarts.

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IMAGINE Lab researcher scientist Matt Swarts talks members through an exercise.

Blockchain is a new approach to recording commercial and other transactions. Blockchains rely on decentralized distributed, public, and encrypted digital ledgers. As such, blockchain in construction suggests many possible applications to construction processes and transactions, from materials shipping and tools tracking to contacts and validation of work and payment. The session explored these possibilities in construction.

The second morning workshop, “The Smart Campus,” included presentations by Georgia Tech’s Director of Design and Construction Scott Jones, and Campus Facilities leadership Alejuandro Hunt and Jessica Rose. Georgia Tech is pursuing numerous data-centric initiatives in the design, construction, and operations of its campus.

Among the goals of these related initiatives are: to provide industry-leading operational capabilities for the Institute, offer a living-learning laboratory to students and researchers, and spearhead an industry-wide effort for research and development on smart buildings, cities, and the built environment.

The presenters exhibited the current research and Institute programs by campus academic and facilities leadership. The session provided an opportunity for strategizing and planning for DBL members’ involvement in Georgia Tech and industry programs.

The two-afternoon seminars were “Construction Data Analytics” and “BIM and IoT.”

The building information modeling (BIM) and internet of things (IoT) sessions were led by Ph.D. students Xinghua Gao of the School of Building Construction and Shu Tang of the Digital Building Lab.

The workshops engaged attendees in identifying and developing new cases for BIM-IoT integration. The internet of things is a rapidly emerging paradigm for connecting sensors and actuators in time-data systems over the internet. Potential applications span from field construction to building energy management, asset tracking, and space management.

Connecting IoT data streams to BIM models offers the possibility of a closed loop “digital twin” between building models and the environment. The workshop provided an in-depth look at the data modeling requirements and possible applications for connecting building models with real-time data.

The “Construction and Data Analytics” workshop was led by associate professor Baabak Ashuri, of the School of Building Construction, who led participants in a discussion on the techniques of data analytics and identifying future applications of data analytics.

Data analytics refers to qualitative and quantitative techniques.

Data processing is used to enhance the productivity and business operations. It encompasses many contemporary data-driven techniques that are revolutionizing business processes including big data and machine learning. The session provided an overview of the methods of data analytics and their applications for building design and construction.

Day 2 Featured Research Presentations

The second day of the meeting continued with research presentations by Georgia Tech faculty and students. The day started with the introduction by DBL-affiliated faculty member Thanos Economou. He is also a professor in the School of Architecture.

Economou presented on Shape Signature a new geometric foundation for CAD/BIM with Kurt Hong, who has a Master of Science in Architecture and is a master's student in engineering; James Park, who has Master of Architecture and is a Ph.D. student; Heather Ligler, AIA, who has a Master of Science in Architecture and is Ph.D. student.

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Keith Kaseman talks about his work with the Digital Fabrication Lab.

Another DBL-affiliated faculty member Russell Gentry presented on Re-Wind Developing Value-Added Composite Materials from Re-Purposed Wind Turbine Blades with Tristan Al-Haddad. Gentry spoke on his research on windmill and windfarm in Ireland.

Gentry is also a professor in the School of Architecture and Al-Haddad is a part-time lecturer in the school.

Keith Kasemen, a professor in the School of Architecture, just completed his first year as a DBL-affiliated faculty member. He spoke about his work with the College of Design’s Digital Fabrication Lab and its future.

Graduate students from across the campus had the opportunity to present to DBL members and engage in some insightful conversation and questions to further their work at Georgia Tech. The students work inspired DBL members, who are project managers, to code along with the students.

DBL students present projects at members meeting.
DBL students present their projects to members.

DBL Set Strong Agenda for Future, Director Says

"We were encouraged by the interest shown by our industry partners in coming together for these two days and grateful for their participation. We were able to set a strong agenda of programs for the coming year,” said Shelden, who is also an associate professor in the School of Architecture.

“The tech workshops allowed us to develop more in-depth discussions with industry on some critical emerging technical topics, including blockchain and IoT for the building industry.

“The presentations of current and proposed research by faculty and students from across campus generated a lot of excitement in finding ways to collaborate with our industry partners over the coming year."

The members were both impressed and inspired by the level of hard work and innovation from Georgia Tech students, Shelden said. They look forward to seeing the student’s projects on the DBL websites and the upcoming annual DBL Symposium in October.