September 10, 2018

Robotics at work sites? Emerging technology revolutionizing traditional construction industry

Jiansong Zhang Jiansong Zhang Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue Polytechnic faculty are continuing to use automation technology like robotics as the foundation to build toward a better future in the area of construction.

Jiansong Zhang, an assistant professor in the School of Construction Management Technology, is part of the effort, working on the automation of construction operation using robotics technology.

“As a construction researcher, I acknowledge our industry has lagged behind other industries such as manufacturing and agriculture in adopting and developing technologies,” Zhang said. “In recent years, we’ve been really trying to catch up. We’ve developed new technology in our domain to help with productivity, safety, quality and cost of the products.”

The technology aligns with Purdue’s giant leaps celebration, acknowledging the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Among those advancements is the continuing development of brick-laying robots as well as robotic systems that lay out the rebar for concrete, he said.

Artificial intelligence is a major part of technology in future construction, including the early stages of planning. In his lab, Zhang works on software side with the algorithms of computing technology, which are used to support future automation on the job site.

Zhang is focused on information extraction. Through the use of the algorithms he works to develop, computers can examine the design model of a building and compare it to the building codes of a certain city or state. Violations are then filtered out to be corrected.

“The system can perform the reasoning thousands of times faster than a human, even if I was using an average laptop rather than a supercomputer,” he said.

Zhang added his research is one example of a small, specific task during the design review phase of the life cycle of a construction project.

“The amount of time that can be saved and improvements made can vary from phase to phase and application to application and person to person in a project,” he said. “Construction project contain a lot of different phases. Planning, design, actual construction, operation and maintenance and even after the life span of the structure there is attention to possible remodeling or demolition.”

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084,

Source: Jiansong Zhang, 765-494-1574,

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