Although research into simulation of construction continues to advance and thrive in the academic world, application of simulation in the construction industry remains limited. Stakeholders on construction projects have yet to adopt simulation as their default tool of choice for managing large complex projects, instead of traditional techniques, which are often inadequate. This paper describes the building of an asphalt paving simulator, as an example of the rigor and effort required in developing construction simulation models, and then briefly describes an alternative model building method currently being researched which may potentially make it easier and faster for stakeholders to quickly build construction simulation models.
Construction simulation models - current situation overview
As construction projects become large, complex and tough to manage using traditional techniques, computer simulation can be used effectively to design and analyze construction processes regardless of the complexity or size.
Computer simulation models can be built to characterize the construction activities of a scope of work ranging from a full blown large and complex project to a sub-area of an industrial facility or to a floor or room of a building. The process of building a simulation model includes four distinct phases: product abstraction phase, process abstraction and modeling phase, experimentation phase, and decision making phase. The effort and technical expertise needed to build a construction simulation model and then run experiments compared with the uniqueness and relatively short life cycle of a construction project contribute to the slow adoption of simulation by the industry.
While building a new model, simulation practitioners find themselves going through the full fourphase process in its entirety. This rigorous and time consuming cycle is typically repeated for every new construction simulation model to be built. Accordingly, when faced with a new situation to analyze or a question to be answered, stakeholders on large and complex projects, even those who are familiar with the usefulness of simulation and value its role, have to make the choice between either using simulation techniques to approach the problem, or resorting to traditional tools. Time permitting and with the right resources and expertise, the choice would be simulation. However, time and know-how lacking – the more prevalent situation, the decision is often to fall back on traditional techniques that would yield a result quickly and with much less effort, even though stakeholders understand the relative inadequacy of the traditional tools. An approach to remedy such a situation would be to diminish the time and skills required to build a simulation model.
Modeling is the most difficult and the most time-consuming part of simulation. Shortening this process and taking away from it some of the rigor required would enable stakeholders to concentrate on solving the problem they are facing rather than spending their time within a development environment attempting to build a model. This paper will (1) describe a special purpose model developed to estimate, plan and manage asphalt paving operations, and (2) briefly describe a proposed alternative method currently being research to rapidly build construction simulation models.