Engineering relies upon detail and precision, but some factors in design and construction are subjective and cannot be accounted for numerically. Probability and statistics are traditionally used to model uncertainty—but the best-laid plans can be fouled by variables that are harder to model, such as worker skills and motivation, project team competence, or even a project’s organizational structure. How is it possible to prevent “unforeseen circumstance” from having a negative impact on a construction project?
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Aminah Robinson Fayek is a leading expert in “fuzzy logic” and uses her knowledge to bring greater precision to planning and execution of construction projects. Robinson Fayek incorporates events and circumstances that do not have hard-and-fast values into planning and construction by using techniques of fuzzy logic. As the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Strategic Construction Modeling and Delivery, Robinson Fayek collaborates with construction owners, contractors, labour groups, and their respective associations to bring a complete knowledge set into construction planning and execution. She is combining fuzzy logic with other artificial intelligence techniques, such as genetic algorithms and neural networks, to help develop decision-making tools for construction.
Robinson Fayek and her team are trying to develop decision-making tools that mimic the kind of “gut instinct” decisions, or judgment calls that only veterans of the construction industry are able to make, by weighing pros and cons and considering ambiguous information. “Fuzzy logic allows us to build vastly improved models of human reasoning,” she says. “We want to provide our partners with a competitive advantage, to improve their project performance and help our industry become more productive.”