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January 09, 2009— Ottawa, Ontario

NRC has established a new research centre in London, Ontario that will provide novel tools to help boost the productivity of Canadian construction companies. Called the NRC Centre for Computer-assisted Construction Technologies (NRC-CCCT), it boasts strong expertise in such technologies as physics-based modelling, dynamic scheduling, and process automation and optimization — as well as a state-of-the art virtual reality laboratory focused on construction-related applications.

One of the Centre's priorities is to develop computer-assisted technologies to improve the management and maintenance of "critical facilities" such as hospitals and power stations. "We want to ensure critical facilities can operate under any scenario imaginable," says Dr. Russ Thomas, director responsible for NRC-CCCT. "For example, if the heating or ventilation fails in a hospital, or if the ventilation system becomes contaminated, the results can be very serious."

Finding steel faster

NRC-CCCT researchers are applying GPS-based tools to help construction companies build steel-based structures more efficiently. "Our technology could reduce search times for steel components very significantly on large construction sites," says Dr. Russ Thomas. In a trial project, as steel was delivered to a site, his team photographed the item number on each component, using a GPS camera. This data was later entered into NRC tracking software. "When we looked at the data using a satellite view from Google Maps, it showed the exact location of all the steel."

The ultimate goal is to allow a worker to click on a wireless cell phone or similar device to summon a "pin" indicating the precise position of a needed component. The worker could then walk to the component and signal the crane operator to follow. This technology would also avoid time-wasting searches for components that are missing from the site.

A second priority is to develop interactive visualization tools that could help transfer construction knowledge to workers. Because materials, technologies and regulations evolve continuously, new buildings and infrastructure are becoming more complex to build and operate, which means the industry needs ways to rapidly transfer advanced knowledge to its workers.

NRC-CCCT researchers plan to assemble tool kits allowing partners such as industry, colleges and universities to develop their own visualization training environments. "We're also looking at using the X-box or related video game systems to help keep costs down for small construction companies," says Dr. Thomas. "Our goal is to help find ways to ensure that new construction technologies get adopted and that people have the skills to apply them."

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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