Modular Construction Research Group

University of Alberta, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

The principal focus of the Chair is to industrialize the construction process through collaborative research. Groundbreaking research is currently being conducted with regards to lean principles, BIM technology, urban engineering, and the built environment. 

The IRC is involved in a broad range of projects, ranging from crane optimization on industrial sites to carbon footprint quantification. Some of the prominent research themes underway are outlined below.

Architecturally complex projects require advanced tools. Due to the inherent complexities of innovative structures, 3D modelling and animation can be used to experiment with the construction process on a computer screen in order to prevent potentially costly on-site errors. In this regard, the IRC serves as a hub for research and education on building information modelling (BIM), uniting industry and academia to overcome obstacles that hinder innovation in construction processes. Applications include automated deign and drafting, as well as material waste minimization.

The application of lean theory can play a significant role in eliminating process waste and modelling complex construction operations. Our research successfully applies lean and other productivity improvement techniques in the development of improved work methods and productivity standards for different industries and projects, including homebuilding operations and construction manufacturing. 

IRC research in the area of ergonomic risk assessment looks at evaluating the degree of ergonomic hazard posed by residential construction tasks. This research considers ergonomic risks in terms of worker health and safety in manufacturing facilities and on construction sites, construction productivity, and cost, advancing with the hypothesis that careful design of construction tasks can improve productivity. Complementary research initiatives are investigating safety of occupied buildings with respect to indoor air quality, as well as evidence-based elderly-friendly architectural design, exploring innovative designs that allow elderly persons to age at home with reduced safety hazards.

Our research has proffered a number of contributions to construction automation as it is applied to equipment selection and planning for heavy industrial construction projects. Among these contributions is the development of crane selection optimization algorithms; these algorithms integrate 3D CAD models with a crane database populated with over one millions records of crane-lifting configurations for over 100 types of mobile cranes. IRC research in the area of crane utilization has led to a number of innovations to minimize the cost and footprint associated with crane operations on industrial sites. Other developments include an automated system for mobile crane support-system design, and tools and algorithms for automated crane motion planning and animation.

Sustainable urban development, with ready access to amenities and infrastructure, results in a higher quality of life for all citizens. We conduct research investigating infrastructure planning, policies, and community design in order to enhance quality of life and sustainability. This involves interrogating municipal bylaws, exploring potential efficiencies in the design, delivery, and maintenance of infrastructure, and researching policy changes that could reduce costs while enhancing safety.

The International Journal of Industrialized Construction features leading-edge research on the theory and practice of industrialized construction. Industrialized construction is an innovative approach that capitalizes on manufacturing-based production and advancements in computing, automation, construction planning and management, and materials science. Dr. Al-Hussein is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal.