July 4, 2023

Digitized construction sites for more sustainability: Launch of joint project EConoM

July 4, 2023

The newly launched research project EConoM (Edge Computing, AI and 5G Campus Networks in Nomadic Application for Construction Site Management) aims to significantly improve processes and execution quality on construction sites. The Fraunhofer Heinrich-Hertz-Institute (HHI) is involved in the project with its "Vision and Imaging Technologies" (VIT) department, contributing its expertise in AI-based 3D image and video analysis. The VIT researchers are using 5G-networked cameras to develop novel methods for 3D modeling of buildings throughout the construction process. In addition, the goal is to track machinery and material flows on construction sites. The EConoM project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMVD) with more than 5 million euros over a period of 2 years.

Generally, construction projects are realized in temporary, ever-changing production environments with frequently alternating stakeholders. At the same time, the construction industry, with a volume of almost 500 billion euros and almost 1 million employees (figures from 2021), offers considerable development potential in terms of digitization and automation. So far, the digitization processes and the introduction of Building Information Modeling (BIM) have focused only on increasing the efficiency of the construction planning processes. Construction management and execution still take place mainly in analog form. In order to provide more affordable housing, achieve climate protection goals, and modernize mobility and infrastructure, it is essential to increase efficiency along the entire construction value chain.

The EConoM researchers plan to use artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G campus networks to improve the quality of on-site construction work and safety while shortening construction times and lowering overall cost. To achieve this, edge computing, AI and digital communication on construction sites must be widely available, robust, easy to handle and interference-free.

The overall objective of the project is to improve construction value chains through a robust nomadic infrastructure that can be used by alternating work teams. This infrastructure must allow both synchronization and flexibilization of distributed construction processes as well as integration of digital building information models (BIM) and sensor/machine networks. Moreover, the researchers intend to comply with the GAIA-X basic principles of identity, trust, and data sovereignty.

For that purpose, the EConoM team is developing new concepts for monitoring and quality assurance processes on construction sites. To this end, the researchers are setting up nomadic sensor/camera systems to record and document progress on the construction site and compare it with target values. For the registration and automated evaluation of construction progress, Fraunhofer HHI researchers are developing AI-based methods to check the quality of construction elements and compliance with construction tolerances using photos, videos, or laser scans in combination with BIM models. Furthermore, they are also testing remote assistance and XR visualization methods for real-time support on the construction site.

Besides Fraunhofer HHI, planen-bauen 4.0 GmbH, Hochtief ViCon GmbH, Fraunhofer FOKUS, Zeppelin Rental, RWTH Aachen, Uniberg and Center Construction Robotics are involved in EConoM.