Turkan researches ways to streamline construction processes

Building information modeling (BIM) is a relatively new process that involves generating and managing digital representations of a facility’s physical and functional characteristics. Integrating it into construction practices is something Yelda Turkan will continue to emphasize in her research and teaching as a new assistant professor in the College of Engineering’s civil, construction, and environmental engineering department.

Yelda TurkanTurkan’s interest in BIM began while she was earning her PhD in civil engineering at the University of Waterloo (Canada). There she studied under Professors Carl T. Haas and Ralph Haas, and worked on automation in construction progress tracking using 3-D imaging technologies and 4-D BIM. Building a foundation for her doctorate, she earned a MS in satellite communication and remote sensing and a double BS in civil engineering and geomatics engineering at Istanbul Technical University (Turkey). Her MS and BS degrees were earned in 2006, 2005, and 2003, respectively.

BIM technology constructs virtual models that integrate physical structures, systems, materials, and scheduling into a comprehensive representation of a building project, and is an improvement over traditional project management methods.

“It’s a new trend in construction engineering, and there is a lot of research being done but only at a few top institutions. The industry is heavily interested in developing the use of BIM because many construction projects typically have cost overruns or scheduling delays. BIM can be used to improve both,” explains Turkan.

With research that focuses on construction and infrastructure management, logistics, and transportation, Turkan uses emerging sensing technologies, such as 3D laser scanning, photogrammetry, ultra wideband sensors, and radio frequency identification, to automate construction processes and management activities. The information she gathers through these sensors can provide management data in a more accurate, reliable, timely, and continuous manner.

While 3D imaging-based data collection technologies and automated progress tracking algorithms provide more reliable as-built conditions, BIM can present a virtual digital model for integrating and visualizing the entire life cycle of a project. Turkan says utilizing these systems for project progress tracking and for project quality control significantly helps, and in some cases, now makes it possible to conduct cost-effective assessments and continuously monitor a variety of projects.

Turkan, who began her appointment with Iowa State in August, is bringing her research to the classroom with a BIM course she is in the process of developing. The course, which she’ll begin teaching in spring 2013, prepares students for CCEE’s senior capstone design project, a culmination of the undergraduate experience designed to give students real-world engineering experience.

That kind of challenge is fresh in her own work, since she recently completed her PhD project—researching, gathering data, and analyzing the project progress of a newly constructed engineering building on the University of Waterloo campus, a $55 million project completed in 2010.

“These systems can be very challenging to learn while in the midst of a senior project,” Turkan explains. “The course will be designed to provide students a foundation of the BIM skills they will need in advance of their senior year projects, giving them one more resource to help them succeed with their work.”