Integrating 3D visualization and simulation for tower crane operations on construction sites

Mohamed Al-Hussein, Muhammad Athar Niaz, Haitao Yu, Hyoungkwan Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


Most high-rise building construction projects rely on tower cranes to perform lifting and hoisting activities. In practice, tower cranes are managed based on demand, urgency, and prioritized work tasks that must be performed within a set period of time in the field. As a computer tool, simulation has proved to be effective in modeling complex construction operations and can be a substantial help in aiding practitioners in construction planning. However, the use of simulation has fallen far below its maximum potential due to a lack of appropriate support tools which would allow construction managers to use simulation tools for themselves. Special purpose simulation (SPS) and 3D visualization of simulated operations are two potential means that enable domain experts, who are knowledgeable in give domains, but not familiar with simulation, to easily model an operation within their domain and analyze the simulation results. This paper presents a practical methodology for integrating 3D visualization with SPS for tower crane operation. An integrated system was built in a 3D Studio MAX environment and tested in the construction of the new civil and environmental engineering building at the University of Alberta. This paper demonstrates that 3D visualization is helpful in the verification and validation of simulation results, and can effectively communicate the essence of a simulated operation, thus improving the accessibility of simulation as a decision making aid.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-562
Number of pages9
JournalAutomation in Construction
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Sept

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors sincerely thank the NSERC/Alberta Construction Industry Research Chair in Construction Engineering and Management and Mr. Paul Knowles, Project Manager for NREF from PCL, for supporting this research. In particular, we thank Dr. Vineet R. Kamat for his assistance with the research.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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