Feb 05, 2024

AI for Sustainable Construction: Automating Project Planning in Lean Construction

AI construction planning image

The Research problem

Lean Thinking is a methodology that aims to continuously improve business processes. It originated from the Toyota Production System in the 1950s and has several principles that focus on minimising waste and maximising value. The application of Lean principles in the construction industry holds great promise for sustainability enhancement in an industry often criticised for adverse environmental impact. Despite its potential, implementing Lean Thinking in construction can be difficult due to complex data requirements and increased workload. To overcome these challenges, this project aims to leverage AI technologies to automate construction planning. By improving the precision of planning and streamlining its processes, construction projects can generate higher value, achieving Lean principles and ultimately advancing sustainable and smart practices in the construction industry.

Research Design

This project is structured into three stages. In the initial stage, a prototype will be developed for an AI tool for construction planning based on Lean principles. The second stage involves conducting a workshop with experts from industry and academia to test and validate the proposed tool. This workshop will be part of the International Group for Lean Construction (IGLC) conference in Auckland to leverage the extensive expertise attracted by this conference. Innovative gamification approaches will be employed using Lego and role-playing to represent a realistic site situation and observe the tactics of the experts in solving complex planning problems. The AI tool will then be introduced to showcase its capabilities and collect insights on its performance.  The third stage will focus on analysing the outputs of the validation workshop to identify essential requirements for the proposed AI tool, ensuring its practical applicability and relevance.

Project Objectives

The key objective of this project encompasses developing an AI-based tool for construction planning automation, addressing challenges in the adoption of Lean principles, and enhancing sustainability in construction projects. Beyond its technical focus, the project aims to bridge the global knowledge gap in Lean Construction. The WUN funding will support leveraging the IGLC conference to facilitate the validation with experts from industry and academia to ensure the practical relevance of this research and establish its theoretical contribution. The funds will be used to support the project partners to travel to Auckland to contribute to the IGLC and run the validation workshop. The three collaborating Universities bring a wealth of innovation and research excellence to this project. In particular, the unique partnership between Leeds Centre for Projects, Auckland Smart Digital Lab, and Alberta Hole School of Construction Engineering will ensure that this project will ultimately contribute to a more sustainable construction industry by innovatively combining Lean principles with AI technology.

Who's involved

Dr Yang Zou, The University of Auckland

Professor Vicente Gonzalez, University of Alberta