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Safety Walk with Thomas

ᐅ 2023.03.22 Top-notch Scholars at HKU iLab for the Development of Innovative Smart City

Scientific research provides solutions to future problems while innovation creates infinite possibilities. The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has always been attaching great importance to scientific research and actively promoting its transformation into practical applications. Ir Thomas HO On-sing, Chairman of the CIC, visited the iLab of the HKU Faculty of Architecture along with Council Member Sr Thomas HO Kwok-kwan and former Chairperson of the Committee on Building Information Modelling (BIM) of the CIC, Ar. Prof. Ada FUNG. They met with the Dean Professor Chris Webster and Associate Dean of HKU Faculty of Architecture, Professor Wilson LU, and were briefed on the team’s recent research outcomes which promote digitalisation of the construction industry. The CIC will continue to work closely with iLab to build Hong Kong into a world-class smart city.

MiC Trilogy

Since 2018, the CIC has been promoting the use of Modular integrated Construction (MiC), whereby construction processes are shifted to factory manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) while prefabricated components are assembled and installed on-site in Hong Kong. It is encouraging to see the construction method being embraced by the industry. MiC has been adopted in more than 100 building projects in Hong Kong over the past few years. The HKU team led by Professor LU has further developed the “MiC Trilogy”, which monitors the manufacturing, transportation and installation processes of MiC through mobile applications.

The first application, e-inStar, digitalises the workflow of the manufacturing of modules in the factory. Inspection records, photos and test reports are uploaded and displayed on the dashboard in real time. The visualisation of blockchain enables offshore monitoring by the Hong Kong team and ensures operation of the factory and production quality. During the transportation of modules to Hong Kong, i-Core Sensors are installed to monitor temperature, vibration, and humidity of the modules. Blockchain technology and the e-TranStar application are used to track the real-time location, forecast estimated arrival time, and monitor the condition of the modules.

When the modules arrive at the construction site, the third application, e-InstallStar, is used to obtain installation information and check whether the installed modules are planned the hoisting path and positioned in place correctly. This positioning system has already been piloted in HKU’s Wong Chuk Hang Student Residence project. By using the OBBi system (OpenBIM: Opening the gate for BIM and blockchain integration), a novel approach has been developed to retrieve information from blockchain and restore it to BIM without delay or information loss.

Develop Automatic Robotic Arm for Lifting Modules

Scientists always stay hungry, stay foolish, so does the iLab team. The team is developing a robotic arm that could be attached to tower cranes for hoisting modules to designated locations automatically. The system could simulate the process and project possible modules collision during crane operation. Chairman Ir Thomas HO highly commended the system for enhancing productivity and safety and hoped that the system could be piloted once the wind speed problem is overcome, to benefit more MiC projects in speed and efficiency enhancement.


Adoption of CIC BIM Standards

The CIC has spared no effort in promoting construction digitalisation technology and setting BIM standards so that architects, engineers, surveyors and contractors could adopt the same standards to allow projects are delivered under the same agreed level of quality. Not only construction industry practitioners, academic institutions also adopt BIM. By using Mobile LiDAR, a 360-degree camera and complimenting software, the HKU team could scan the environment and objects inside a room of a few hundred square feet and convert the data into a BIM model within minutes. CIC BIM objects including ceiling, wall, table, chair and cabinet are all captured automatically. The software is still in the trial phase and Chairman Ir Thomas HO hoped that it could be put into use as soon as possible.

Coupler Inspector Robot

Couplers are widely used to connect reinforcement bars in construction sites. For inspection purposes, details of couplers (e.g., lengths, depths, in-positions) are usually documented in paper records, which are easily lost and prone to error. To solve this problem, the iLab team has developed the Coupler Inspector Robot with wireless charging, which can measure the depth of a coupler, record time, date and operator then automatically generates the inspection records as specified. It ensures the accuracy of data and offers greater convenience in retrieving the records.

iLab was established in 2016 under the Faculty of Architecture as an urban big data lab to take the opportunities and challenges as instigated by the global visions of Smart City and Industry 4.0.  It has made significant break-through in modernising the construction industry in Hong Kong and beyond. iLab has also won various CIC awards, including the Young Innovator of CIC Innovation Award 2015 and the Silver Award in CIC Construction Digitalisation Award 2021 (Organisation Category-Training/Research Institute). The CIC will continue to support the application of scientific research into practical applications and encourage cooperation between the construction industry and academic institutions to promote advanced technologies and enhance construction productivity as the long-term goal.

Last Updated: 2023-03-22 11:32:04