chapter  5
23 Pages

Potentials of cyber-physical systems in architecture and construction

WithLauren Vasey, Achim Menges

A cyber-physical system is a tight coupling of physical processes, sensors, and back-end computational processes. Cyber-physical systems present enormous potentials in architecture and construction, enabling a reconsideration of the highly fragmented nature of typical production chains through increased possibilities for digital integration and collaboration. This chapter describes the fundamental mechanisms of a cyber-physical system, including components dedicated towards tasks in computation, communication, control, and sensing. The enabling technologies which facilitate their deployment in AEC are presented, including increased levels of interoperability enabled by open source libraries and hardware. Data processing techniques and inter-device communication can enable cyber-physical systems to be integrated into construction workflows, where physical production processes can be closely coupled to computational processes. The chapter then contextualizes current challenges for cyber-physical systems within stereotypical design workflows and production processes due to the compartmentalized nature of the industry, and the conservative nature of building codes based on standardization and pre-calculation. Areas are identified where cyber-physical systems can be applied, including intelligent and interconnected workflows where online process monitoring can be leveraged towards automated data acquisition and real-time diagnostics. Cyber-physical systems can also be applied towards coordination, where multiple tasks can be planned and dispatched to disparate entities utilizing networked systems of control. With the ability to connect multiple devices, machines, robots, and users together in an interconnected system enables truly collaborative workflows. Cyber-physical systems also imply a shift towards process flexibility and autonomy: where robots, machines, and construction equipment can leverage sensor feedback and closed-loop control to respond robustly within unstructured environments. With intelligent and reactive handling protocols, cyber-physical systems can also enable an entirely new set of material systems, including non-standard, anisotropic, and differentiated material systems, as well as unpredictable material systems which resist prediction by existing conservative and reductive models of analysis. The chapter concludes with a discussion on additional developments would which enhance the impact of cyber-physical systems. This includes domain-specific hardware and software tools developed for the needs and constraints of construction, in addition to integrated co-design processes, where new building systems and their requisite automation systems are co-developed, their constraints mutually influencing interdependent development.