Skip to Content

Sensor based digital transformation of construction

PhD project title

Sensor based digital transformation of construction

Outline description, including interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international dimensions 

Concrete production to a large extent has ignored technology, this is particularly true for precast concrete products. As this is a high volume low profit sector of the market with insufficient incentives for innovation. Creagh concrete is one of the largest precast manufacturer in the UK and have close research links with Queen’s University. Through one of the new knowledge transfer programmes, we have developed an affordable sensor system that can help to automate their production process. Through this PhD project we are aiming to integrate the sensor feedback into Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other real-time construction logistics software. This will reduce the errors and accidents associated with production, improve the productivity by identifying the leaky pipelines and logistic issues and deliver value of money for clients. This thread when fully developed is equally applicable to all construction supply chain including the precast suppliers all over the world. For Northern Ireland with significant emphasis on Precast production, the impact will be greater.

The sensor developed has RFID functionality and therefore it is effective as a tag and track system. During the first phase, the student will be working with the Electronics and Computer Science team at Queen’s to learn about the sensor, output and methods of integration into open source cloud based software. Second phase will be with the R&D team at Creagh to help them determine the progress of each product against a challenging building project such as RapidRes. Third phase will be to integrate the sensor feedback into BIM for real-time third party (eg. client) updates. Student can learn BIM (and other skills) through existing teaching programmes at Queen’s across the two disciplines and also from the Civil and Electronics research teams. 

The student will be working closely with Creagh concrete who has a R&D base at their office in Toome it is anticipated anticipate that the student will be working from this office at least 3 to 6 months across the project duration.

The student will present at International Conferences and in this case student will be informing the developments at the Institute of Concrete Technology (UK) and sensor UK KTN

Key words/descriptors

BIM, Sensors, wireless Communication, data analytics, construction process, digitisation

Fit to CITI-GENS theme(s)

  • Information Technology,
  • Advanced Manufacturing,

This project will be a showcase for Precast suppliers all over the world. Northern Ireland has a strong manufacturing base and Precast Concrete is one of the main contributor for our regional economy. One of the core themes of Belfast City Region Deal is the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre which will also focus on Modular and Rapid housing. Creagh is one of the modular fast track construction provider and their flag ship product Rapidres is being considered towards rapid scaling up in social housing sector. At present this product is cost prohibitive and this is one of the primary reasons why Creagh is seeking to optimise their production process through digital means.

Supervisor Information



First Supervisor: Dr. Sree Nanukuttan                                                                 School: Natural and Built Environment

Second Supervisor: Dr. Gareth Conway                                                                  School: Electrical Electronics Engineering and Computer Science

Third Supervisor : Mr. William Doherty, Creagh Concrete

What costs are associated with the project and how will they be funded?


NB: The COFUND research grant supports the financing of student fees and the salary of the ‘Fellows.’ Additional overheads (e.g. specialist training, equipment) are not provided for

Expected costs are:

  • Computing equipment. (University to supply)
  • Sensors, assembly and wireless communication platform (Research funding available).
  • Travel to and from site – occasionally. (Internal funds available to primary supervisor)
  • Sensor based data collection based on the production factory. (Creagh Concrete)

The total cost is expected to be around £12,500. As it aligns with on going research projects, consumables element will be funded through the research funds.

Name of non-HEI partner(s)

Creagh Concrete Products Limited

Contribution of non-HEI partner(s) to the project:



  • Office space (plus computing) at our research laboratory to facilitate data collection and processing.
  • Cost associated with sensors, assembly and wireless communication platform. This will complement the funds available through existing joint research programme between Queen’s and Creagh.
  • Cost associated with casting of structural elements, testing and optimisation.


Profile of the non-HEI partner and the nature of the relationship.    


Non HEI partner for this project is Creagh Concrete Products Ltd. Creagh is one of the key research partners for Materials Research Team at Queen’s University. We have three ongoing research projects, two funded by UKRI and one by Horizon 2020.

The non HEI supervisor will be Mr. William Doherty, who is a well-established and celebrated Mechanical Engineer who is also the Managing Director of Creagh Concrete Products Ltd. Mr. Doherty is the President of Concrete Society UK and a board member of British Precast Association.

Established in 1976, Creagh Concrete has grown to become one of the largest and most innovative producers of concrete products for a diverse range of market sectors throughout Ireland and the UK. The company operates from its Head Office in Toomebridge, Co Antrim with bases in Hoveringham and Edinburgh. Creagh Concrete has a number of specialist divisions working with each sector of the construction industry. The company's core product range is precast and prestressed flooring with an extensive range of flooring systems designed for commercial or residential applications.

Subject area

Civil Engineering, Construction, Materials