Crane Planning and
Modular Construction Research Group
University of Alberta, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
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. Our 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.
3D visualization-based motion planning of mobile crane operations in heavy industrial projects
The successful completion of modular-based heavy industrial construction projects is reliant upon safe and efficient crane operations, where the degree of safety and efficiency has a direct impact on project productivity. Corresponding to the design of reliable crane operations, this research proposes 3D visualization-based motion planning for mobile cranes. This approach integrates 3D visualization with mathematical algorithms based on “What if” scenarios, facilitating the design of collision-free mobile crane operations for a large number of lifts in congested areas. The methodology is developed based on two types of interactive analysis: (1) rotation analysis to build 3D visualization for the motions of crane body configurations; and (2) spatial analysis to detect potential collision errors in order to design collision-free crane operations. The rotation analysis is applied for calculating the angles describing the orientations of mechanical elements in the crane system by reading the coordinates of the crane location and pick and set points of the object (module) to be lifted. The spatial analysis, meanwhile, is used to monitor and maintain sufficient clearances between existing obstacles and the crane body configurations in order to prevent potential collisions during crane operation design. The methodology is tested on a case study in order to illustrate its effectiveness.
Stability analysis of construction cranes
This research develops a methodology to design safe crane operations by identifying possible crane instability using crane support reactions. The methodology integrates wind information and support reactions with BIM to control the crane operations more efficiently. Dynamic loading in the context of crane motion and lifting loads, it should be noted, is the key factor associated with the failure of cranes to maintain stability. This research thus develops an algorithm to evaluate the elements required for calculating the crane support reaction forces and checking the stability of the crane. As mentioned, this research also develops a method for identifying possible crane instability caused by strong winds. Finally, a framework is proposed to incorporate weather information into BIM in order to calculate the possible downtime of lifting operations, information which, in turn, will assist in selecting the best possible crane.
A 3D-based crane evaluation system for mobile crane operation selection on modular-based heavy construction sites
Modular-based heavy industrial projects, which involve a large number of lifts on congested and/or dynamic site layouts, require not only the design and selection of efficient mobile crane operations, but also rapid and accurate responses to design changes in the planning stage of the project to ensure successful project completion. Existing tools have not yielded strategies which support informed decisions to select the most suitable mobile crane operation (e.g., the cycle time of the crane lift) among several alternatives. This research develops a 3D-based crane evaluation system (3D-CES) which designs, verifies, and simulates 3D visualization of mobile crane operation not only to support the selection of the most efficient crane operation, but also to plan the crane lift schedule during crane lift studies based on identification of safety and productivity aspects. These aspects are shown to increase efficiency, timeliness, and profitability of construction through effective collaboration and communication. As demonstrated in a case study, 3D-CES can permit users to design and select the most suitable crane operation by providing crane digital lift information, even when frequent design changes, such as those to lifting sequences, crane locations, and material pick points, are encountered.
A framework for crane selection in large-scale industrial construction projects
Selecting the best possible cranes and identifying spatial conflict-free locations on sites can result in productivity and safety improvements for large-scale industrial construction projects. In current practice, experienced lift engineers select cranes based on the heaviest lift and/or the largest lifting radius that a given crane is capable of. This practice is relatively time-consuming, and optimization of the crane’s use and location is also difficult. There are many factors which need to be considered during the crane selection process, a reality which further complicates the process. This research thus develops a decision support framework to enhance the crane selection process and collision-free path planning for large-scale construction projects. An innovative crane selection matrix is used to establish a process for optimized crane selection for construction projects. The study considers more than 40 different factors in order to reduce time and improve safety for crane operations. Following finalization of crane type (mobile crane versus tower crane), a visualization model to simulate crane operation and identify collision-free crane operation paths is proposed. This process can assist project managers in planning the lifting process more effectively and efficiently. The methodology is tested in the planning and construction of boiler house structures on a heavy industrial site in Mannheim, Germany. The case project entailed numerous challenges: one of the major tasks was to lift and set a 102-ton load on top of the boiler structure using crane collaboration; space limitations on site also presented several challenges related to crane selection, location, and operational processes. Based on the given project constraints, the proposed crane selection framework, and the visualization models, two tower cranes were selected and successfully implemented in the case study.
Modular rigging lift frame
This research involves the development of the Quikmod-2 (QM-2) modular lift frame, which is a redesign of the original US model to comply with Canadian standards. The QM-2 has a 10ʺ pipe at the end of which special eyes are attached that transfer the stress directly to the crane hook. This solution on the upper part of the rigging allows the compressive stress to be concentrated in the pipe between the ears, leaving the ropes attached directly to the lift lugs in a vertical plane. The bending moments in the beams of the frame compensate in one plane and, although the beams are statically indeterminate, the reactions in the ropes can be quite accurately calculated using the global stiffness matrix. The QM-2 lift frame also features windows that can be moved along the main frame beam depending on the center of gravity of the object being lifted. Accompanying the device is full documentation on its use, maintenance, transport, and storage.
Comparative analysis between the uses of tower cranes and mobile cranes at industrial projects
• Project Type: Industrial
• Location: Saskatoon
• Heaviest Load: 102 tons
• Crane Selection Options
1. One 440 Ton Capacity Crawler Crane
2. One 128 Ton Capacity Tower Crane on Rail
3. Two 128 Ton Capacity Tower Cranes
PCL lift frame project
This research involves the development of the third-generation Engineered Module Lift Frame (EMLF-3), designed to help diversify the crane rigging configuration options to handle loads up to 240 metric tonnes. The unit can be attached to designed pipe bar lengths ranging from 5 ft to 80 ft to create a spreader bar assembly. The modular concept for the bar allows easy transport between projects as well as compact storage at job sites. The attached legs, meanwhile, elevate the entire assembly above grade to keep its elements clean during inclement weather conditions.
Innovative design of a two-jib tower crane
The tower crane is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the construction of high-rise buildings, but efficient utilization of tower cranes is highly dependent on the skill, judgment, and experience of planners and operators. This research explores the potential of an innovative two-jib tower crane as a potential solution to many of the challenges facing crane planners and operators today.
Utilization of 3D visualization of mobile crane operations for on-site assembly in modular construction
In heavy industrial construction, the on-site approach is being gradually replaced by the off-site (modular-based) construction method, which is faster, better-quality, and more environmentally-friendly. Given this trend, cranes have a considerable effect on successful completion of modular-based construction projects with respect to project productivity and safety. However, lift engineers and project managers face the challenge of designing collision-free crane operations prior to construction commencing. In this context, we introduce a methodology whereby a dynamic graphical description of 3D visualization is applied to simulate various scenarios with different crane models and types in order to select the most effective and efficient crane operation. The case study demonstrates the significant value of 3D visualization, from design to implementation, in the following respects: (1) improving productivity by eliminating uncertainties; (2) facilitating better communication, understanding, collaboration, and decision making; and (3) assisting project practitioners in successfully performing critical lifts during actual construction.
Competitive analysis and value proposition of frozen silt mats an alternative to crane timber mats
High-capacity cranes are the backbone of the heavy construction industry, and ground stability has become a critical issue with regard to their safe utilization. Crane rental companies use timber mats for ground stability and are spending a considerable amount of time on stacking, transportation, and waste management of timber mats. In this study, a novel alternative to conventional timber mats is explored, an artificially created layer of ice or frozen silt for crane support. A theoretical study using FEA is carried out to gain insight into the structural behaviour and comparison of ice and frozen silt with commonly used mat materials (Coastal Douglas-fir, S355 & G40.21-44W). This research also encompasses the use of artificial ground freezing for the preparation of frozen silt matting in order to obtain bottom-up cost estimation of ground freezing using indirect freezing (brine chillers) and direct freezing (liquid nitrogen) with the use of FEA. Thermal simulations help to establish a baseline for cost estimation for the alternative crane matting solutions in order to generate the value proposition.
A novel methodology to determine GBP profile under crawler crane tracks employing combined loading with 8-points
Modular projects in the heavy construction industry are reliant upon the use of high-capacity crawler cranes. Because of the significant increase in the weights of the industrial modules in use today, ensuring proper ground integrity under the crane track is critical to preventing crane collapse. This research thus investigates ground integrity under crawler cranes, beginning with an analysis of the expected pressure under the tracks in order to ascertain the necessary ground treatments. Typically, the ground bearing pressure (GBP) is computed using the fundamentals of statistics at the four edges of the crane (left-front and -rear, right-front and -rear), considering track width under uniform loading. FEA shows that the GBP values deviate even for two corners of the same edge (width-wise). As an alternative to the traditional approach, a novel method is developed in this research that not only calculates GBP at all 8 corners of the crawler tracks, but is also capable of calculating the GBP at any point along the track area. This method is used to establish a comprehensive GBP profile for crawler cranes.
Decision-support tool for site layout problems integrating wind ramifications
This research develops a semi-automated optimized model for selecting the optimum crane model and determining the most feasible crane location, source supply locations and the designated supply location for each demand location. The aim of the optimization is to minimize the time needed for the crane motions to be performed while reducing the ultimate momentum generated around the crane base. Additionally, a simplistic decision support tool is developed to ensure the ability of the selected tower crane model to withstand the reverberation caused by high wind speeds, as well as to protect against over-tipping and mast structural beam failure due to excessive malformation, by assuming that the tower crane is a rigid body. It should be noted that the specifications such as grounding pressure and allowable limit of deflection of the tower crane are, respectively, the measures for ensuring the capacity of the tower crane to withstand the effects of high winds.
Long Island Mansion (Teylas Residence, New York)
One of the highlights of Dr. Al-Hussein's career came with his recruitment to assist in the construction of a Long Island mansion in New York, US. Encompassing four pavilions and some 22,000 sq ft, the sprawling mansion also incorporated 108 concrete panels weighing in at between 3,000 and 61,000 lb each. Dr. Al-Hussein's recruitment to plan and oversee the crane lifts for these panels has contributed to his growing reputation as a world-class researcher in the area of crane planning and optimization.
Muhlenberg College student residences
The chair holder made history in overseeing the planning of crane operations for the assembly of a five-unit dormitory facility at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in just 10 on-site working days in August 2007. The residential facility was constructed from prefabricated modules constructed by a New Jersey-based company, Kullman Buildings Corporation. The three-storey dormitories now house some 150 students and comprise 41,000 sq ft in total floor space.
This research project devised a methodology to aid practitioners in preparing lift studies with crane selection, positioning, and lift optimization using 3D. The 3D visualization helped to identify collision-free paths and optimize lifting activities based on optimal crane paths, with the cycle time and speed of each crane activity taken into account using simulation. The methodology assisted lift engineers and project manager in selecting the best possible crane. The methodology was applied to the construction of a four-storey, 68-unit residential facility in Westlock, AB, Canada. The IRC research team provided a 3D visualization model to the construction team more than two months in advance of the scheduled on-site assembly, which assisted the contractor in selecting the optimum crane and successfully completing all lifts (30modules, 25 tons each) in just two working days.
Well-designed mobile crane operation is a critical on-site in modular manufacturing industry since it affects productivity of projects. In this respect, this project, family medical green building, Montreal, Canada, was to study lift studies in terms of crane locations and operations using 3D visualization. 3D visualization helped to identify any uncertainties of crane operation due to dynamic site conditions. Based on these uncertainties, collision-free crane operations were designed to install modules successfully on-site. The visualization model also was used as a pre-lecture of crane operations which gives confidence to lift engineers, project managers, and crane operators about the plan lifts.
Depropanizer V-22511 replacement at Shell Scotford complex
Refineries have scheduled downtime from continuous hydrocarbon production during which individual units or entire production plant assemblies are replaced. As a rule, downtime is very limited and individual operations are carefully planned several months or years before the actual stoppage. This research involved the replacement of a 72,000 kg depropanizer situated adjacent to units that were not being replaced and in some cases were still operational in limited production. The entire operation carried out by the industry partner, NCSG Crane & Heavy Haul, was performed exactly as planned and computer-calculated. The presented images show a vertical tank from a refinery, computer simulation analysis, distance tolerances when lifting the device, and the current exchange operation.
Multi-hole crane rigging beam
Modular refinery equipment is typically fabricated a considerable distance from the job site. Although the cost of manufacturing the equipment is economically justified, transport to and assembly on site pose a challenge. This research involves the design of a custom multi-hole rigging beam for quick and safe assembly of crane rigging for the purpose of lifting and placing modules during assembly of the plant. Rapid modification of the rigging beam in response to various centers of gravity of the raised modules saves time and thus significantly reduces the cost of assembly of the site equipment. Complementing the design and validation of the device as part of this research is the preparation of documentation for its use, maintenance, transport, and storage.