University of Florida faculty and students will help advance the field of industrialized construction engineering with $2.5 million in strategic funding from the office of UF President Ben Sasse.
Working together, UF’s College of Design, Construction and Planning, and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering will seek to revolutionize how the world conceptualizes, designs, and builds affordable and resilient buildings and civil infrastructure.
“The construction and engineering industries are rapidly changing with advances in technology, and we need to adapt and evolve to keep up with that pace,” Sasse said. “The Industrialized Construction Engineering (ICE) project will help UF’s experts use tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation to transform the way we design and build.”
The College of Design, Construction and Planning will use its future 50,000-square-foot Bruno E. and Maritza F. Ramos Collaboratory to harness the power of AI, design automation, and robotic construction to enhance productivity, safety, and quality in residential and commercial construction.
“This funding gives us an excellent opportunity to partner with the College of Engineering to make UF the premier institution for industrialized construction,” said Chimay Anumba, Ph.D., dean of the College of Design, Construction and Planning. “There will be huge societal benefits as we can tackle productivity, safety, quality, and resilience issues in the construction project delivery process.”
UF’s Center for Advanced Construction Information Modeling and the Smart Industrialized Design and Construction Lab will expand their educational offerings and research related to emerging technologies for the design, construction, and maintenance of civil infrastructure.
“The Industrialized Construction Engineering program represents a pioneering, multidisciplinary initiative that will revolutionize the construction sector by reconceptualizing education, research, and industry outreach,” said Aladdin Alwisy, Ph.D., the director of the Smart Industrialized Design and Construction Lab.
UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the College of Design, Construction and Planning also plan to create a first-of-its-kind undergraduate degree program in industrialized construction engineering, making UF a critical destination for researchers and students interested in the field. This tech-centered program will focus on environmental stewardship, as students research resilient construction practices and learn to use sustainable materials in their work.
“We are integrating AI, robotics, digital twins, and extended reality, which sets our program apart within the broader field of civil engineering,” said Eric Du, Ph.D., a civil engineering professor in the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment. “By employing digital twin technology, we create dynamic digital representations of physical assets, enabling real-time monitoring and simulation of built environments.”
The innovative program will focus on robust and efficient construction methodologies to expedite rebuilding efforts, ensuring faster recovery for disaster-stricken areas.
“These technologies will open up new pathways to tackle some of society’s most vexing problems, such as the affordable housing crisis, jobsite labor shortages, and the impact of natural hazards on civil infrastructure and lifelines,” said Forrest Masters, Ph.D., interim dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.
The curriculum includes hands-on learning opportunities through industry partnerships, enabling trials of leading technologies on construction sites. And the program will include certificate programs tailored to construction robotics.
“Collaborating with the College of Design, Construction and Planning isn’t solely about advancing technology; it’s about advancing opportunities for students, the university, and communities that will be positively impacted,” said Kirk Hatfield, Ph.D., director of the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment. “This collaboration is a testament to our commitment to creating a future where knowledge, innovation, and societal impact converge.”
Support for the Industrialized Construction Engineering project comes from the $130 million in new funding that UF received from the Florida Legislature this year. Sasse established that, for the first time, more than half of the funds would be directed to units for special strategic projects. A total of $24 million was delivered to deans to report back on their uses of the funds, and another $50 million was made available across all colleges and administrative units. UF received more than 250 submissions and 40 proposals were selected – each one aimed at enhancing the student experience and advancing interdisciplinary scholarship.