Project Description

2020 H.A Krentz Research Award
Robert Driver,
Ph.D., P.Eng., F.CSCE, F.SEI
Professor of Structural Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Alberta

Artificial Intelligence Applications for Advancing the Canadian Steel Construction Industry

During the last 20 years, ground-breaking advancements in computer hardware, data science, and artificial intelligence technologies, such as artificial neural networks, genetic algorithms, machine learning, big data and data mining, and optimization algorithms have made possible huge advances for many industries, helping them become more efficient and competitive. In industries like finance, transportation, and logistics, artificial intelligence has revolutionized procedures and allowed these industries to tap into new revenue streams. Artificial intelligence is a key technology used to analyze, understand, and ultimately benefit from data. In the steel construction industry, it can be used to enhance and accelerate decision-making for stakeholders, making processes more efficient, increasing competitiveness, and furthering sustainability objectives—aiding, rather than replacing, decision makers. Although many of these advanced technologies are now well understood, limited applications exist in the steel construction industry, but there is ample opportunity for fabricators to enhance outcomes by providing them with tools to automate workflows and increase efficiency, quality, cost effectiveness, and safety.

The proposed research project aims to incorporate emerging technologies from the fields of computer and data science into structural steel design and fabrication. This project is the first of its kind in the Canadian steel construction industry, implementing artificial intelligence technologies and data science techniques to the design and fabrication of structural steel connections, accounting for inventory management, one- and two-dimensional cutting, and fabrication operations. The investigation to be carried out under this CISC research grant constitutes the initial exploratory phase of a major multi-year multi-disciplinary research initiative, and is split into three main themes: (1) steel connection design optimization; (2) cutting and value-added shop operations; and (3) inventory management during the optimization processes for multiple concurrent projects.


After a six year career as a structural engineer in industry, Dr. Robert Driver, P.Eng. earned a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in 1996. Thereafter, he joined the faculty at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. He returned to the University of Alberta in 2000 where he is currently a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His primary research interests pertain to the design and behaviour of steel structures, including topics such as bolted and welded connections, plate walls, high performance steel, rehabilitation, composite columns, and behaviour under extreme loading.