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Digital Technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) Industry—A Bibliometric—Qualitative Literature Review of Research Activities

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Digital technologies (DTs) are proven helpful in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry due to their varied benefits to project stakeholders, such as enhanced visualization, better data sharing, reduction in building waste, increased productivity, sustainable performance and safety improvement. Therefore, researchers have conducted various studies on DTs in the AEC industry over the year; however, this study explores the state-of-the-art research on DTs in the AEC industry by means of a bibliometric-qualitative review method. This research would uncover new knowledge gaps and practical needs in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry. In addition, bibliometric analysis was carried out by utilizing academic publications from Scopus (i.e., 11,047 publications for the AEC industry, 1956 for DTs and 1778 for DTs in the AEC industry). Furthermore, a qualitative review was further conducted on 200 screened selected research publications in the domain of DTs. This study brings attention to the body of knowledge by envisioning trends and patterns by defining key research interests, journals, countries, new advancements, challenges, negative attitudes and future directions towards DTs in the AEC industry. However, this study is the first in its vital importance and uniqueness by providing a broad updated review of DTs in the AEC literature. Furthermore, this research laid a foundation for future researchers, policy makers and practitioners to explore the limitations in future research.
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International Journal of
Environmental Research
and Public Health
Article
Digital Technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and
Construction (AEC) Industry—A Bibliometric—Qualitative
Literature Review of Research Activities
Bilal Manzoor 1, Idris Othman 1and Juan Carlos Pomares 2, *


Citation: Manzoor, B.; Othman, I.;
Pomares, J.C. Digital Technologies in
the Architecture, Engineering and
Construction (AEC) Industry—A
Bibliometric—Qualitative Literature
Review of Research Activities. Int. J.
Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18,
6135. https://doi.org/10.3390/
ijerph18116135
Academic Editors: Genserik Reniers
and Ming Yang
Received: 3 May 2021
Accepted: 4 June 2021
Published: 6 June 2021
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral
with regard to jurisdictional claims in
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iations.
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors.
Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
This article is an open access article
distributed under the terms and
conditions of the Creative Commons
Attribution (CC BY) license (https://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/
4.0/).
1Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University Technology PETRONAS,
Seri Iskandar 32610, Perak, Malaysia; bilal_18003504@utp.edu.my (B.M.); Idris_othman@utp.edu.my (I.O.)
2Civil Engineering Department, University of Alicante, P.O. Box 99, E-03690 Alicante, Spain
*Correspondence: jc.pomares@ua.es
Abstract:
Digital technologies (DTs) are proven helpful in the Architecture, Engineering and Con-
struction (AEC) industry due to their varied benefits to project stakeholders, such as enhanced
visualization, better data sharing, reduction in building waste, increased productivity, sustainable
performance and safety improvement. Therefore, researchers have conducted various studies on DTs
in the AEC industry over the year; however, this study explores the state-of-the-art research on DTs
in the AEC industry by means of a bibliometric-qualitative review method. This research would
uncover new knowledge gaps and practical needs in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry. In
addition, bibliometric analysis was carried out by utilizing academic publications from Scopus (i.e.,
11,047 publications for the AEC industry, 1956 for DTs and 1778 for DTs in the AEC industry). Fur-
thermore, a qualitative review was further conducted on 200 screened selected research publications
in the domain of DTs. This study brings attention to the body of knowledge by envisioning trends
and patterns by defining key research interests, journals, countries, new advancements, challenges,
negative attitudes and future directions towards DTs in the AEC industry. However, this study is
the first in its vital importance and uniqueness by providing a broad updated review of DTs in the
AEC literature. Furthermore, this research laid a foundation for future researchers, policy makers
and practitioners to explore the limitations in future research.
Keywords:
digital technologies; bibliometric analysis; systematic review; building information
modeling (BIM); safety; accidents
1. Introduction
The Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry is undergoing a sig-
nificant shift from conventional labor-intensive methods to automation through the use
of digital technologies (DTs) and has played a significant role in this revolution [
1
]. In
general, DTs generally refer to information and communication technologies (ICTs) that
facilitate the development, storage and handling of information and promote the various
forms of communication between human beings and electronic systems and between
electronic systems in digital binary computing systems [
2
]. With the great emphasis on
these technologies in the AEC industry, the assessment of their impact on user behavior is
becoming increasingly important as DTs transform the relationship between the construc-
tion process and human behavior [
3
]. As a result of growth in the concepts of digitalization
and automation in Industry 4.0, DTs have gained rising attention [
4
,
5
]. They could be
used for logistics operations, near-real-time knowledge flows, end-to-end supply chain
consistency and increased human interaction through the application of digital technology,
in particular labor-intensive activities [6].
Building information modeling (BIM) [
7
], augmented reality (AR) [
8
], virtual real-
ity (VR) [
9
], photogrammetry [
10
], radio frequency identification devices (RFID) [
11
],
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18116135 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 2 of 26
geographic information systems (GIS) [
12
], global positioning systems (GPS) [
13
], wear-
able safety devices [
14
], quick response code (QR) [
15
], artificial intelligence (AI) [
16
],
robotics [
17
], block chain [
18
], onsite mobile devices [
19
] and laser scanning devices [
20
] are
all seen as promising DTs in the AEC industry. In general, the advantages of using DTs in
the AEC industry are known to be immense. For instance, AR-VR technologies have shown
promising results in a number of fields related to the AEC industry offering solutions to
collaborative and communication issues [
21
]. Methodologies such as BIM for project docu-
mentation and architecture management enable teams to work on a cooperative network,
collaborate and share project data [
21
]. Various examples of VR integrations assembled for
applications associated with the AEC show promising results, e.g., urban planning [
22
],
acoustic analysis [
23
], design analysis and decision-making support [
24
], construction
safety [
25
], enhancement in spatial perception and learning results in engineering related
areas [
26
]. Furthermore, RFID can help boost the transparency and productivity of the
supply chain [
27
]. Likewise, for data collection, tracking, visual monitoring and assessment
purposes, GPS–GIS technologies can be used [
28
]. While robotics use has the potential
to increase efficiency and safety, it should not inherently in the longer term reduce total
work opportunities in the construction sector [
29
]. Using the camera of a smartphone,
an application reads the QR code and shows the clash-free model on its display. Users
can incorporate, interpret or use section planes to easily visualize the design of the draw-
ings [
30
]. In addition, AI offers huge potential for substantial efficiency improvements
through rapid and accurate analysis of large data volumes [
31
]. In addition, AI systems
and technologies can resolve complex, non-linear functional issues and once equipped,
predictions and generalizations can be carried out at high speed [32].
With the increasing demand for DTs in the AEC industry, more studies are needed in
this field. However, previous review studies in this field [
16
,
33
35
] have made significant
contributions but have various limitations. Firstly, they have been used manual meth-
ods [
36
]. Secondly, there is a lack of comprehensive reviews of state-of-the-art research
covering all the aspects of DTs under one umbrella. For instance, Ibem and Laryea [
35
]
conducted a literature review that only focus on the procurement of construction projects.
Guo et al. [
34
] conducted a literature review but only limited to the boundary of construc-
tion safety. Pauwels et al. [
27
] conducted a literature review but limited to the benefits
of semantic web technologies. Darko et al. [
16
] conducted the first comprehensive scien-
tometric study assessing the state-of-the-art of research on AI in the AEC industry, but
limited within the domain of Al. In the context of this evidence, these analysis studies do
not provide a complete picture of state-of-the-art research on DTs in the AEC industry.
In fact, there is still a lack of a study that provides a detailed image and understanding
of the literature of DTs in the specific domain of AEC. Therefore, the objectives of this study
are: RQ1. What is the annual publications trend on DTs in the AEC industry? RQ2. Which
journals publish studies on the contribution of DTs in the AEC industry? RQ3. In which
context (country) were the studies conducted? RQ4. Which digital technology emerges the
most among all other DTs? RQ5. What are the new advancements, challenges, negative
attitudes and future directions towards DTs in the AEC industry?
In order to overcome this research gap, a quantitative (i.e., bibliometric analysis) and
qualitative approach (i.e., systematic review) were used to seek responses to these questions
for the benefits of academia and industry. It is anticipated that the answers to these ques-
tions would give rise to contributing knowledge in literature and DTs. As a consequence of
DTs are gaining broader market development and the interest of practitioners, construction
stakeholders and researchers in the global environment to benefit from new advancements
and future directions.
2. Background of Digital Technologies
Four phases in the evolution of DTs have been addressed in literature studies. The
first step was pre-1838 when Samuel Morse invented the first telegraphic transmission
and manually transmitted information. Following this, electricity and electro-mechanical
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 3 of 26
control were invented, and gadgets such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, television
were developed. The third step was the convergence, separately used, of broadcast and
electronic technology in the 1950s and data were transmitted in analogue mode before the
1950s. The final step was to replace the analogue mode of data transfer with the digital
system [
37
]. In the 1960s, electronic devices and signal processing were introduced and
gradually accelerated as digital goods such as CDs were introduced into the market in the
1980s. It is evident from this that ICTs were incubated for more than 100 years, while their
digitalization, i.e., the process of translation into electronic and binary machine language
by sound, text, voice or image, was taken 20 years and so on to execute [37].
In particular, the digitalization of ICTs increases the ability of network technologies,
the performance of data and information exchange and cost prosperity in the storage,
transmission and processing of information [38]. The ability of DTs to integrate electronic
networking and computing in data processing and manage various data sorts simultane-
ously (e.g., text, sound or image) has thus led to the provision of computer equipment,
telecommunications systems and networks that have problems [
39
]. Thus, the three basic
characteristics of DTs: integration and multi-functionality; intelligence and prevalence are
undoubtedly very important features; where good data processing, powerful connectiv-
ity of tasks and procedures, clear communication, coordination and collaboration of the
workflow are needed [40].
In addition, DTs have various applications such as communication, computing ac-
cessories, networking gadgets, intangible items, software applications, communication
networks and the Internet. DTs can also promote the execution of a wide range of enterprise
and natural processes, including manufacturing. [
41
]. For their applications, therefore,
DTs can be divided into six key classes. These include data and information capture,
storage, processing, collaboration and display, as well as for integration, collaboration and
synchronization of work processes with storage, collaboration and interoperability service
abilities; for example, keyboards, floppy discs, hard discs, mobile devices, printers, fax
machines, readers bar code and scanning images [42].
Since its inception, the AEC industry has pursued ways to reduce costs, improve
efficiency, enhance visualization, improve data sharing, reduce building waste, increase
productivity, sustainable performance, improve safety and boost quality, all while attempt-
ing to reduce delivery time. The AEC industry is still heavily reliant on conventional
drawings and procedures in order to conduct business [
43
]. Simultaneously, the AEC pro-
fessionals recognize the value of DTs in achieving more precise and intelligent modeling.
Since the AEC industry is highly competitive, those AEC firms that effectively implement
the latest technologies will be able to outperform the competition due to their ability to
adopt them. Despite enormous automation opportunities, the AEC sector has only recently
begun the transition from tradition to automation [15].
3. Research Methodology
To fulfill the research objectives, a “mixed-systematic review method” was used in
this study and comprises of a quantitative approach (i.e., bibliometric analysis) and a
qualitative approach (i.e., systematic review). The flowchart of research methodology is
shown in Figure 1.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 4 of 26
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 4 of 26
Figure 1. Research flowchart design.
3.1. Mixed-Systematic Review Method
Quantitative and qualitative approaches are collectively referred to as a mixed-sys-
tematic review method. The purpose of the mixed approach seeks to use the power of
qualitative and quantitative approaches and to reduce the inconvenience [44]. To imagine
the systemic and complex dimensions of scientific research, the bibliometric approach is
used [45]. Bibliometric visualization is an important tool that visualizes the domain of
information and the relationship among papers, journals, and so on [46]. In this study,
bibliometric mapping is used to classify knowledge domains and research patterns for
DTs in the AEC industry based on established literature. Meanwhile, a systematic analysis
is underway to include a holistic view of current research to assess lacunae in the
knowledge pool and predict future research directions [47].
Figure 1. Research flowchart design.
3.1. Mixed-Systematic Review Method
Quantitative and qualitative approaches are collectively referred to as a mixed-
systematic review method. The purpose of the mixed approach seeks to use the power of
qualitative and quantitative approaches and to reduce the inconvenience [
44
]. To imagine
the systemic and complex dimensions of scientific research, the bibliometric approach is
used [
45
]. Bibliometric visualization is an important tool that visualizes the domain of
information and the relationship among papers, journals, and so on [
46
]. In this study,
bibliometric mapping is used to classify knowledge domains and research patterns for DTs
in the AEC industry based on established literature. Meanwhile, a systematic analysis is
underway to include a holistic view of current research to assess lacunae in the knowledge
pool and predict future research directions [47].
3.2. Data Collection
The data acquisition has been conducted with the aid of Scopus rather than Google
scholar or web of science due to the following reasons (a) Scopus has a broad range of
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 5 of 26
scientific journal publications relative to other databases [
48
], (b) Scopus has a much greater
indexing mechanism that improves the opportunity to access more recent publications [
49
],
(c) previous studies [
16
,
50
] used Scopus instead of other databases due to avoid from the
difficulty of checking and replication of publications from various databases. The data
collection in this study was achieved by two approaches (a) bibliometric analysis and
(b) systematic analysis. The bibliometric analysis provides a platform for deeper insight
selection of data regarding DTs in the AEC industry. Table 1elaborates the searching
strategies of literature. The first and second queries in Table 1were merged in order to
retrieve existing literature related to DTs in the domain of the AEC industry. “Digital”
OR “technology” OR “technologies” AND “Architectural engineering” OR “Construction
engineering” OR “Civil engineering” AND “BIM” OR “Building information modeling” OR
“Building information modelling” OR “AR” OR “VR” OR “RFID” OR “Photogrammetry”
OR “Images” OR “Videos” OR “Cameras” OR “laser scanning” OR “3D scanning” OR
“Robotics” OR “Block chain”.
Table 1. Literature searching strategies.
Topic Keywords Results
the AEC industry “Digital” OR “technology” OR “technologies” AND “Architectural
engineering” OR “Construction engineering” OR “Civil engineering” 11,047
Digital technologies
“BIM” OR “Building information modeling” OR “Building information
modelling” OR “AR” OR “VR” OR “RFID” OR “Photogrammetry” OR
“Images” OR “Videos” OR “Cameras” OR “laser scanning” OR “3D scanning”
OR “Robotics” OR “Block chain”
1956
Digital technologies
“Digital” OR “technology” OR “technologies” AND “Architectural
engineering” OR “Construction engineering” OR “Civil engineering” AND
“BIM” OR “Building information modeling” OR “Building information
modelling” OR “AR” OR “VR” OR “RFID” OR “Photogrammetry” OR
“Images” OR “Videos” OR “Cameras” OR “laser scanning” OR “3D scanning”
OR “Robotics” OR “Block chain”
1778
Digital technologies and the
AEC industry
Screening on the basis of engineering fields, journal papers, unrelated topics,
non-English publications 200
The Scopus search keyword was set as title/abstract/keywords to extract all publica-
tions in their title, abstract or keyword section. In this search, 1778 Scopus records were
retrieved. A screening technique was successively conducted with the help of a systematic
review in order to boost the findings to the applicable engineering scope. Study papers
other than engineering, including medicine and agriculture, were additionally omitted.
The source title was analyzed to extract irrelevant papers and conference proceedings by
performing another refining. The reason to exclude conference papers is that conference
papers did not go through the peer-reviewed process before publication. Now, the number
reduced to 445 Scopus records. Further, refining was conducted to read the title and ab-
stract of each individual paper and exclude the irrelevant papers. For example, the papers
that were outside the domain of DTs and AEC boundaries and non-English publications.
The final outcome was 200 articles from 1975 to December 2020.
3.3. Bibliometric Analysis Tools
There are various bibliometric analysis tools such as Gephi, CiteSpace, Sci2, HistCite
and VOSviewer available, each of which has its own potential and abilities. In this study,
VOSviewer was used that provides the basic functionality needed to produce, visualize and
explore bibliometric networks [
51
]. For instance, Vilutiene et al. [
52
] used the VOSviewer
tool for bibliometric analysis of BIM for structural engineering. In addition, Santos et al. [
53
]
used the VOSviewer tool for bibliometric analysis and review of BIM literature. The most
recent study conducted by Babalola et al. [
54
] also emphasized the usage of VOSviewer in
bibliometric analysis of advances in BIM.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 6 of 26
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Annual Publications Trend on DTs in the AEC Industry (20th and 21st Century)
As compared between the 20th century (1975 to 2000) and the 21st century (2001–2020),
the trend of publications on DTs in the AEC industry is high in the 21st century (2001–2020).
This is a fact by Robin [
55
] that DTs have become the most powerful technology tool in
the 21st century. Bilal et al. [56] also provide evidence of an increasing trend of DTs in the
AEC industry in the 21st century. In the 20th century, during the late 1990s, research in
DTs had gained momentum when computational capacity and researchers’ dedication to
using DTs in resolving more complex issues in a wide range of fields began to increase [
57
].
Due to this, the number of publications might had caused a little peak in 1996. However,
the trend of publications on DTs in the AEC industry was boosted up in 2014–2020. This
increase in the trend of publication may be due to the need and level of adoption in the
AEC industry [58]. It shows that the adoption of DTs in the 21st century is increasing and
raising the benefits. For example, compared to the 20th century, it is difficult to visualize
the construction site. However, photogrammetry has made visualization simpler and
quicker in the 21st century. Similarly, the monitoring process of the construction area is
made reliable with the help of DTs. Figure 2depicts the comprehensive annual pattern of
publication in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 6 of 26
Santos et al. [53] used the VOSviewer tool for bibliometric analysis and review of BIM
literature. The most recent study conducted by Babalola et al. [54] also emphasized the
usage of VOSviewer in bibliometric analysis of advances in BIM.
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Annual Publications Trend on DTs in the AEC Industry (20th and 21st Century)
As compared between the 20th century (1975 to 2000) and the 21st century (2001–
2020), the trend of publications on DTs in the AEC industry is high in the 21st
century
(2001–2020). This is a fact by Robin [55] that DTs have become the most powerful technol-
ogy tool in the 21st century. Bilal et al. [56] also provide evidence of an increasing trend
of DTs in the AEC industry in the 21st century. In the 20th century, during the late 1990s,
research in DTs had gained momentum when computational capacity and researchers
dedication to using DTs in resolving more complex issues in a wide range of fields began
to increase [57]. Due to this, the number of publications might had caused a little peak in
1996. However, the trend of publications on DTs in the AEC industry was boosted up in
2014–2020. This increase in the trend of publication may be due to the need and level of
adoption in the AEC industry [58]. It shows that the adoption of DTs in the 21st century
is increasing and raising the benefits. For example, compared to the 20th
century, it is dif-
ficult to visualize the construction site. However, photogrammetry has made visualiza-
tion simpler and quicker in the 21st century. Similarly, the monitoring process of the con-
struction area is made reliable with the help of DTs. Figure 2 depicts the comprehensive
annual pattern of publication in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry.
Figure 2. The annual publications trend.
4.2. Journal Contributions on DTs in the AEC Industry
Numerous studies have shown and made clear how important academic journals are
to be examined in any field of science [59]. The results suggested that the most important
contribution of publications on DTs in the AEC industry by the Automation in Construction
followed by Journal of Construction Engineering and Management and Journal of Computing
in Civil Engineering. This indicates that practitioners, researchers and students who wish
Figure 2. The annual publications trend.
4.2. Journal Contributions on DTs in the AEC Industry
Numerous studies have shown and made clear how important academic journals are
to be examined in any field of science [
59
]. The results suggested that the most important
contribution of publications on DTs in the AEC industry by the Automation in Construction
followed by Journal of Construction Engineering and Management and Journal of Computing
in Civil Engineering. This indicates that practitioners, researchers and students who wish
to undertake more research in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry should place a
greater priority on Automation in Construction due to its significant contribution in the field
of DTs in the AEC industry. The mission of this publishing initiative is to advance the
subject through publications that include a wide range of information on all aspects of
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 7 of 26
information technology application in the areas of design, engineering, construction and
maintenance and administration of developed facilities. To put it another way, it deals with
issues such as automated monitoring, smart control systems, computer-aided design and
engineering, etc. The contribution of Automation in Construction indicates the most advanced
research in the domain of digital construction. Keeping this in mind, this will help future
researchers to explore more in the field of digitalization construction and to improve safety
performance. However, it is worth mentioning that aside from Automation in Construction,
which has the highest contributions, all the others are the AEC industry journals, though the
Journal of Cleaner Production and some of the other Engineering journals (Composite Structures,
Buildings, Journal of infrastructure systems, Visualization in Engineering, Construction Innovation,
Accident Analysis and Prevention) may include vast area of engineering. The detailed theme
of journal contributions on DTs in the AEC industry is shown in Figure 3.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 7 of 26
to undertake more research in the domain of DTs in the AEC industry should place a
greater priority on Automation in Construction due to its significant contribution in the field
of DTs in the AEC industry. The mission of this publishing initiative is to advance the
subject through publications that include a wide range of information on all aspects of
information technology application in the areas of design, engineering, construction and
maintenance and administration of developed facilities. To put it another way, it deals
with issues such as automated monitoring, smart control systems, computer-aided design
and engineering, etc. The contribution of Automation in Construction indicates the most
advanced research in the domain of digital construction. Keeping this in mind, this will
help future researchers to explore more in the field of digitalization construction and to
improve safety performance. However, it is worth mentioning that aside from Automation
in Construction, which has the highest contributions, all the others are the AEC industry
journals, though the Journal of Cleaner Production and some of the other Engineering jour-
nals (Composite Structures, Buildings, Journal of infrastructure systems, Visualization in Engi-
neering, Construction Innovation, Accident Analysis and Prevention) may include vast area of
engineering. The detailed theme of journal contributions on DTs in the AEC industry is
shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Journal Contributions.
4.3. Bibliometric Analysis
4.3.1. Geospatial Distribution of Research Articles on DTs in the AEC Industry
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
4
4
4
4
5
5
5
7
8
8
11
21
0 5 10 15 20 25
Journal of Cleaner Production
Composite Structures
Iranian Journal of Science and Technology - Transactions of Civil Engineering
Buildings
Journal of Infrastructure Systems
Experimental Mechanics
Smart Structures and Systems
KSCE Journal of Civil Engineering
Visualization in Engineering
Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and A pplications
Energies
Archives of Civil Engineering
Practice Periodical on Structural Design and Construction
Structural Control and Health Monitoring
Malaysian Construction Research Journal
Applied Sciences (Switzerland)
Advances in Engineering Software
Journal of Civil Engineering and Management
Journal of Management in Engineering
Journal of Surveying Engineering
Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering
Computers in Industry
Computer-Aided Design and Applications
Accident Analysis and Prevention
Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Construction Innovation
Architecture and Engineering
Computer-Aided Civil and Infrastructure Engineering
Sensors (Switzerland)
International Journal of Engineering Education
Journal of Information Technology in Construction
Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management
Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering
Journal of Construction Engineering and Management
Automation in Construction
Figure 3. Journal Contributions.
4.3. Bibliometric Analysis
4.3.1. Geospatial Distribution of Research Articles on DTs in the AEC Industry
The network of countries in the field of scientific collaboration helps to identify
countries that are particularly interested in the field of related research. A network was
developed with the VOSviewer for geospatial distribution and collaboration. This type of
analysis is known as “co-authorship”, the unit of analysis is known as “countries”.
Figure 4
shows a detailed picture of the countries’ collaboration network.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 8 of 26
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 8 of 26
The network of countries in the field of scientific collaboration helps to identify coun-
tries that are particularly interested in the field of related research. A network was devel-
oped with the VOSviewer for geospatial distribution and collaboration. This type of anal-
ysis is known as “co-authorship,” the unit of analysis is known as “countries.” Figure 4.
shows a detailed picture of the countries’ collaboration network.
Figure 4. The geospatial collaboration network in research on DTs in the AEC industry.
To achieve the optimum network, the “minimum number of country documents”
and the “minimum number of country citations” were both set to 15. It can be seen that
the U.S. and China have a strong bond with each other and stand at the top-ranked coun-
tries in research on DTs in the AEC industry, followed by Spain and the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, the U.S. has also strong collaboration and the biggest contributor in research
related to DTs with Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Canada, South Korea and Israel. The
Table 2. illustrates the detailed picture of geospatial distribution of research articles on
DTs in the AEC industry.
Table 2. Geospatial distribution of research articles on DTs in the AEC industry.
Countries Research Articles Average Publication Year
United States 60 2010
China 33 2017
Spain 18 2016
United Kingdom 18 2016
Australia 16 2017
South Korea 13 2014
Hong Kong 9 2015
Canada 8 2012
Germany 6 2016
Taiwan 6 2014
Israel 5 2007
Brazil
Israel
South Korea
Figure 4. The geospatial collaboration network in research on DTs in the AEC industry.
To achieve the optimum network, the “minimum number of country documents” and
the “minimum number of country citations” were both set to 15. It can be seen that the
U.S. and China have a strong bond with each other and stand at the top-ranked countries
in research on DTs in the AEC industry, followed by Spain and the United Kingdom.
Furthermore, the U.S. has also strong collaboration and the biggest contributor in research
related to DTs with Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Canada, South Korea and Israel. The
Table 2. illustrates the detailed picture of geospatial distribution of research articles on DTs
in the AEC industry.
Table 2. Geospatial distribution of research articles on DTs in the AEC industry.
Countries Research Articles Average Publication Year
United States 60 2010
China 33 2017
Spain 18 2016
United Kingdom 18 2016
Australia 16 2017
South Korea 13 2014
Hong Kong 9 2015
Canada 8 2012
Germany 6 2016
Taiwan 6 2014
Israel 5 2007
Poland 4 2015
Brazil 3 2018
Greece 3 2009
Iran 3 2018
New Zealand 3 2019
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 9 of 26
Table 2. Cont.
Countries Research Articles Average Publication Year
Austria 2 2002
Finland 2 2013
Hungary 2 2015
India 2 2020
Italy 2 2020
Singapore 2 2016
Switzerland 2 2007
4.3.2. Author Keywords Co-Occurrence Analysis
With the aid of VOSviewer, it is possible to build up the knowledge domain of DTs in
the AEC industry by using author keywords co-occurrence analysis by using 200 selected
papers. The performance of the VOSviewer (i.e., Network Visualization) is a distance-based
map in which the spacing objects represents the strength of the relationship between the
items [
46
]. The representation of various groups of items is shown by different colors that
are clustered by the clustering technique of VOSviewer [
60
]. The node sizes demonstrate
the occurrence frequency of the relevant keywords, the arcs simply show the co-occurrence
relationship between the keywords, and the line thickness indicates the strength of each
relationship [6163].
Various studies also support the use of author keywords for bibliometric analy-
sis [
53
,
64
67
]. Most recent studies such as BIM for structural engineering [
52
], construction
education [
68
], BIM-based research in construction engineering [
69
], mapping the knowl-
edge domain of BIM [
70
] and integrating BIM with building performance [
71
] also had the
recommendation to use this approach. Furthermore, identical terms such as BIM, Build-
ing information modeling, Building information modelling and information technologies,
information technology, technology were merged as BIM and information technology,
respectively. The detailed analysis of keywords with occurrences, average publication
years, links and total links is elaborated in Table 3.
Table 3. Top keywords of research interest on DTs in the AEC industry.
Keywords Occurrences Average
Publication Year Links Total Links
Strength
BIM 60 2017 19 46
Construction management 11 2013 11 16
Civil engineering 9 2017 7 10
Photogrammetry 9 2016 6 6
Construction 8 2010 9 13
Augmented reality 8 2014 7 12
Information technology 6 2015 8 10
Automation 6 2007 7 9
Computer vision 6 2016 6 7
Inspection 4 2015 6 6
Curriculum 4 2011 5 9
Tracking 4 2012 5 5
Visualization 4 2013 4 6
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 10 of 26
Table 3. Cont.
Keywords Occurrences Average
Publication Year Links Total Links
Strength
Mobile computing 4 2013 4 6
Construction site 4 2013 3 3
Artificial intelligence 4 2013 3 3
Unmanned aerial vehicle 4 2017 3 4
Architectural engineering 4 2019 2 4
Case study 4 2017 2 4
Construction education 4 2015 2 6
Digital image correlation 4 2018 2 2
Terrestrial laser scanning 4 2016 2 2
Computer applications 3 2014 7 7
Buildings 3 2016 5 5
Displacement measurement 3 2016 4 5
Education 3 2016 4 7
Damage 3 2015 3 3
LiDAR 3 2017 3 3
Mapping 3 2006 2 2
Construction technology 3 2019 2 4
Structural health monitoring 3 2017 2 3
Point cloud 3 2015 1 1
Rfid 3 2012 1 1
Text mining 3 2019 1 2
Average publication year means average time period in which specific research areas
have received attention from the researchers. For instance, photogrammetry, computer
vision, terrestrial laser scanning, buildings, displacement measurement and education
gained attention in 2016, while studies focused on BIM, civil engineering, unmanned aerial
vehicle, case study, LiDAR and structural health monitoring gained attention in 2017. The
“links” are the number of connections between a particular items and another, while the
“total links strength” represents the total strength associated with particular item [46,72].
There are six clusters omitted on the basis of Figure 5which are summarized as follow:
(i)
BIM Integrating Cluster (Green Color)
In this cluster, BIM is integrated with architectural engineering, text mining, case
study, education, and curriculum. BIM has the potential to reduce rework for various
engineering goals and to enhance decision-making in different aspects in the AEC indus-
try [
73
]. Various studies provide the recommendation of BIM research using text mining
techniques
[7476]
. A recent study conducted by Pan and Zhang [
77
] for mining BIM
log data with the approach of Long Short-Term Memory Neural Network (LSTM NN).
Although this research had major contributions but had a limitation to implement it as an
Autodesk Revit plugin for a better user experience. Furthermore, to achieve tremendous
achievements and new mindsets, the emerging technology BIM needs more education
practices [
78
]. Universities must concentrate on the strategy of using BIM as a creative
technology to encourage students to learn new skills and prepare them for their future
activities in a more competitive environment [
79
]. However, very limited studies had
been conducted on strategies implemented by educators to promote BIM education, which
is not only beneficial for the AEC industry but also for BIM experts, developers and
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 11 of 26
researchers [
80
,
81
]. Therefore, more proactive collaborations and BIM courses in civil
engineering curriculum design are required to advance BIM educators and BIM talent
development in the AEC industry [82,83].
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 12 of 26
UAV and computer vision algorithms. Although this research has many advantages but
also have some limitation such as UAV cameras, weather conditions, UAV crashes and
turbulence. These limitations should be feasible for future works [105].
(v). Augmented Reality (AR) and Computer Applications Integrating Cluster (Light Blue
color–Orange Color)
AR integrated cluster consists of the construction site and mobile computing and rep-
resented by light blue in color, while computer applications cluster consists of tracking
and represented by orange color. The concept of using AR technology for building plan-
ning has gained popularity as desktop computers have supported more sophisticated
graphics capabilities [106]. It has been found that AR is supposed to be as large a step as
the transformation from 2D line drawings to photorealistic 3D projections [107]. In addi-
tion, the use of mobile computing in the building is becoming an important research sub-
ject in the field of construction information technology [108]. Although AR and computer
applications play a tremendous role and boost up the DTs, they have some limitations
[109,110]. It is suggested to integrate AR with other emerging digital technologies such as
block chain, IoT(internet of things) and MR (mixed reality) to create a near-real-time vir-
tual environment [111].
(vi). Construction Management Integrating Cluster (Purple Color)
Construction management integrating cluster consists of construction education,
construction technology and RFID. Various studies have been conducted on the influence
of RFID on construction automated management [112–114]. Furthermore, the incorpora-
tion of RFID and BIM significantly enhances quality control, work logistics, construction
safety and has become a hot topic in related studies [115–117]. However, there is a need
to further integrate RFID with other emerging DTs in the AEC industry for better visual-
ization in construction management activities. The key challenge of raising the productiv-
ity of RFID and its incorporation with other digital technologies (e.g., GIS and AR/VR) is
the lack of interoperability [118–120] concerning data storage, storage, semantics and on-
tology [121,122]. For instance, Xie et al. [123] defined one of the key semantic interopera-
bility gaps between RFID and VR, needing further future work to improve the interoper-
able framework.
Figure 5. Research interests on DTs in the AEC industry (keywords co-occurrence).
LiDAR
Computer applications
Augmented reality
Mobile computing Displacement measurement
Mapping
Point clou
d
Visualization
Artificial intelligence
Figure 5. Research interests on DTs in the AEC industry (keywords co-occurrence).
(ii)
Automation Integrating Cluster (Yellow Color)
The automation cluster is integrated with construction, information technology, vi-
sualization and artificial intelligence. The concept of automation began in the last decade
with the aim of reducing manpower and time [
84
]. The development of AI is speeding
up rapidly, and the combination of AI with automation has started to change the AEC
industry [
85
]. To achieve the new norm of quality and advancement in construction tasks,
the AEC industry is adopting AI with an automation process [
86
]. Automation has im-
plemented a framework for computers and devices and replaced the mechanism that
was designed by combining the man with the computer [
87
]. In addition, ‘construction
automation’ is a set of a new generation of technological innovations that will radically
change the entire process and philosophy of construction [
87
]. Basically, executing the
construction activities with the aid of robots is termed ‘construction automation’ [
88
]. Some
researchers claim that ‘construction automation’ is the combination of computer-aided
design and robot-based on-site techniques to accelerate overall activities [
89
]. Some of
them, such as Willmann et al. [
90
], now use the term ‘digital manufacturing’ as a synonym
for ‘construction automation’, especially when it comes to designing building projects. It
is recommended that construction automation is actually occurring broadly nowadays; it
is vitally important from the outset to build a standard practice to make clear the signif-
icant benefits and potential outcomes through data-based approaches and to establish a
thorough understanding of construction automation [91].
(iii)
Photogrammetry Integrating Cluster (Pink Color)
The cluster of photogrammetry comprises (light detection and ranging) LiDAR, terres-
trial laser scanning, buildings, damage, mapping, point clouds and inspection. In the last
two decades, 3D building modeling became one of the most popular and hottest topics in
photogrammetry, and it seems that photogrammetry is the only commercial way to acquire
genuine 3D city data [
92
,
93
]. The majority of methods for 3D building modeling and
LIDAR for building structures can be improved by oblique models so that the simulation
of the facade or other manual reconstruction processes is only required for the user so that
the operator can decide the boundaries to reflect the building model, and the process is
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 12 of 26
not too time-consuming [
94
,
95
]. Due to terrestrial laser scanning results, the reconstruction
of the facade has proven to be a valuable source in recent years. There can be up to 100
or 1000 points per square meter of steady laser scanning density in urban areas, which is
high enough to record a lot of data on building facades. Various measures, such as image
matching, intersection and resection, can be skipped compared to image models, whereas
image interpretations are not needed for laser-based reconstruction approaches that are
faced with major challenges such as extracting significant structures from large quantities
of data [
96
]. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by L. Yang et al. [
97
] explored the
semi-automated generation for steel structures based on terrestrial laser scanning data.
It is recommended to expand the established technique to other popular types of project
structures, such as L-shaped structures, T-shaped structures and other structures generated
by the combination of simple primitives.
(iv)
Civil Engineering Integrating Cluster (Blue Color)
The civil engineering cluster is the combination of digital image correlation, displace-
ment measurement, structural health monitoring, computer vision and unmanned aerial
vehicle. Civil engineering infrastructure such as bridges, houses and tunnels continue
to be used amid the ageing and corrosion of their construction life [
98
]. Conventional
inspection and monitoring techniques can yield contradictory results, are labor-intensive
and too time-consuming to be considered successful for large-scale monitoring [
99
]. New
structural health monitoring systems must therefore be developed that are automated,
highly accurate, minimally invasive and cost-effective [
100
,
101
]. Three-dimensional (3D)
digital image correlation (DIC) systems are capable of extracting full-field strain, displace-
ment, and geometry profiles [
102
]. Furthermore, when this measurement technique is
introduced within the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the ability to accelerate the optical-
based measurement process is improved as well as the downtime of the infrastructure is
minimized [
103
]. These resulting credibility maps of the interest framework can be easily
interpreted by qualified staff [
104
]. Moreover, a recent study conducted by Khuc et al. [
105
]
attempted to enhance the displacement measurement methods by incorporating UAV and
computer vision algorithms. Although this research has many advantages but also have
some limitation such as UAV cameras, weather conditions, UAV crashes and turbulence.
These limitations should be feasible for future works [105].
(v)
Augmented Reality (AR) and Computer Applications Integrating Cluster (Light Blue
Color–Orange Color)
AR integrated cluster consists of the construction site and mobile computing and
represented by light blue in color, while computer applications cluster consists of tracking
and represented by orange color. The concept of using AR technology for building planning
has gained popularity as desktop computers have supported more sophisticated graphics
capabilities [
106
]. It has been found that AR is supposed to be as large a step as the transfor-
mation from 2D line drawings to photorealistic 3D projections [
107
]. In addition, the use of
mobile computing in the building is becoming an important research subject in the field of
construction information technology [
108
]. Although AR and computer applications play a
tremendous role and boost up the DTs, they have some limitations
[109,110]
. It is suggested
to integrate AR with other emerging digital technologies such as block chain, IoT (internet
of things) and MR (mixed reality) to create a near-real-time virtual environment [111].
(vi)
Construction Management Integrating Cluster (Purple Color)
Construction management integrating cluster consists of construction education, con-
struction technology and RFID. Various studies have been conducted on the influence of
RFID on construction automated management [
112
114
]. Furthermore, the incorporation
of RFID and BIM significantly enhances quality control, work logistics, construction safety
and has become a hot topic in related studies [
115
117
]. However, there is a need to further
integrate RFID with other emerging DTs in the AEC industry for better visualization in
construction management activities. The key challenge of raising the productivity of RFID
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 13 of 26
and its incorporation with other digital technologies (e.g., GIS and AR/VR) is the lack of in-
teroperability [
118
120
] concerning data storage, storage, semantics and ontology [
121
,
122
].
For instance, Xie et al. [
123
] defined one of the key semantic interoperability gaps between
RFID and VR, needing further future work to improve the interoperable framework.
4.4. Digital Technologies in the AEC Industry
Based on 200 papers, it was discovered that BIM is the most important digital tech-
nology (DT) in the AEC industry, followed by robotics, photogrammetry, laser scanning,
images, AR, image processing techniques, RFID, VR and mobiles. As shown in Figure 6,
BIM has a greater presence in the AEC industry than other DTs. BIM provides the possibil-
ity of simulating a construction project in a simulated environment. A building information
model, or an accurate virtual model of a building, is digitally built using BIM technology.
When finished, the building information model will contain detailed geometry and rele-
vant data to support the design, procurement, manufacturing and construction activities
necessary to realize the building. Although every DTs have its own credibility however
various researchers used BIM integration with other DTs due to the more potential in the
AEC industry. For instance, BIM integration with RFID [
114
,
124
126
], BIM integration
with AR/VR technologies [
127
,
128
], BIM integration with IoT [
129
132
], BIM integration
with GIS [
65
,
133
], BIM integration with laser scanning [
134
136
] and BIM integration with
UAV technology [
10
,
137
]. Robotic technology has also been found to be the second most
emerging technology after BIM, as shown in Figure 6. Robotic technology has the potential
to reduce labor costs and improve quality and productivity [
138
]. Furthermore, robotic
technology can reduce damage and free employees from hazardous tasks [
138
]. Bock [
87
]
argues that traditional construction approaches have reached their limits and that robotics
and automation technologies are capable of addressing the challenges of efficiency in the
AEC industry. The history of robotic technology was developed in the 1960s, but the
level of adoption of robotic technology in the AEC industry is very slow [
139
]. Several
studies have highlighted the factors leading to the lower adoption of robotic technology.
For example, a detailed study was presented on the challenges of robotics development in
Japan, Malaysia and Australia [
140
]. Although there is considerable potential for robotic
technology in the AEC industry, the challenges in the adoption of robotic technology have
not been fully documented. It is, therefore, recommended that there be a clear, up-to-date
study and further discussion of limiting adaptation factors [141].
Figure 6. Mapping of DTs in the AEC industry.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 14 of 26
4.5. Systematic Analysis
The systematic analysis of selected papers was provided in this section in order to
provide an in-depth insight into research on DTs in the AEC industry. Among the 1778 pub-
lications resulting from bibliometric analysis, a screening procedure was performed to
remove duplicate articles, irrelevant papers, and non-peer-reviewed papers. In the end,
200 articles were chosen following the screening process. Based on the subsequent papers,
new advancements, challenges, negative attitudes and future directions have been explored.
4.5.1. New Advancements towards DTs in the AEC Industry
The phenomenon of DTs has been emerging since the 1930s, and with the passing of
time, new technologies, possibilities and growth have been seen in the AEC industry [
142
].
Compared to the 20th century, the 21st century is well ahead in terms of technology,
innovation and digitalization, and is also on the rise [
55
,
143
]. For example, BIM is the
latest and emerging DT of the 21st century; no doubt the BIM idea was developed in the
20th century [
144
], but BIM reached its height in the 21st century [
145
,
146
]. Thus, BIM
is a growing area of study and practice that integrates the diverse information domains
of the AEC industry [
147
]. That is why other DTs have been integrated with BIM, such
as BIM–RFID [
124
,
125
], BIM–GIS [
148
], BIM–AR/VR [
149
,
150
] and BIM–UAV [
137
,
151
]
and so on. In addition, BIM was presented as a major technological improvement on
conventional CAD, providing more intelligence and interoperability capabilities [
152
]. It
was found that there several studies related to BIM integrates with sustainability and
green house buildings [
153
158
] in developed countries. A recent study conducted by
Naji et al. [159] explored the BIM in lower consumption electric power but was limited to
questionnaire data and simulation work and provide a platform for future researchers to
explore this simulation work in real-time case studies for validation purposes. Now, it is
time to explore more energy consumption techniques, new carbon emission techniques
integrating with BIM and other emerging technologies in developing countries [160].
Furthermore, it was found that very few studies have been conducted on BIM inte-
gration with block chains [
161
]. Hence, there is a need for time to explore more studies
on block chain. Block chain is basically a growing emerging technology that has received
significant momentum in various industries in both the public and private sectors in recent
years [
162
]. With the advancement of block chain technology, the direction has gained
new momentum in the smart contract technologies such as chain codes, automated code-
checking compliances and BIM–cyber security to provide a platform for transparency and
security [
163
]. Therefore, it is recommended to explore more research in the field of block
chain and cyber security incorporated with BIM will gain a new boost in the AEC industry.
Table 4elaborates the new advancements towards DTs in the AEC industry.
Table 4. Summary of new advancements towards DTs.
New Advancements References
Facility management activities [164166]
Safety Management [167,168]
Energy management [169]
Supply chain management [170,171]
Quality control [172]
Emergency management [173175]
Retrofit planning [136,176]
BIM–block chain integration [177]
Carbon emissions [178,179]
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 15 of 26
Table 4. Cont.
New Advancements References
Monitoring and Tracking assessment [165,173,180]
Transparency and Security [181,182]
Mobile technology [183]
In addition, the integration of DTs with safety management was explored in previous
studies [
184
,
185
]. In developed countries such as Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom,
BIM has already been introduced in the area of construction safety management [
186
].
Future research in developing countries with the incorporation of BIM with other DTs in
the field of safety management needs to be discussed [117].
Last but not least, mobile technology leads towards DTs in the AEC industry in a
bright way. With the development of 5G technology, there is a boost in the field of DTs [
187
].
A recent study conducted by Chew et al. [
188
] explored the roadmap of 5G technology
for smart buildings. However, this work has various contributions in the AEC industry
but is limited to building structures. This work can be extended to other infrastructures as
well. In addition, a recent survey of 6G exploration was conducted in China [
189
]. With
the advancement of 6G technology, the AEC industry will be improved, and thus, the DTs
will have a significant effect on the growth and prosperity prospects of the AEC industry.
4.5.2. Challenges towards DTs in the AEC Industry
In this section, several challenges have been explored for the adoption of DTs in the
AEC industry. However, it was concluded that more than 80% of the cost of using tech-
nology is estimated to occur after the initial purchase of the technology [
190
]. Purchasing
a VR and AR headset with complete features for construction use could cost as little as
$500 [
191
]. However, support systems cost, such as game engine software, and hardware
components cost, such as laptop, phone and motion tracker, could easily surpass $5000. In
addition, to build an interactive testing environment for the significant use of on-site DTs,
the developer should be employed, and this requires huge costs [
191
]. The same applies to
the use of WSDs, and these devices are cheap to acquire but very costly to use and maintain
for a specific period of time. It was found that IoT-supported wearable devices could cost
$100 per clip-on unit, with an additional networking cost of $12,000–24,000 per year [
192
].
Besides costs, there are various challenges that are well documented in Table 5.
Table 5. DTS adoption challenges in the AEC industry.
Challenges References
Inadequate expertise [193,194]
Inadequate government policies [195,196]
Cultural barriers [197]
Cost [198,199]
Inadequate demand from clients [200]
Resistance to change [201,202]
Security risks [198,202,203]
Inadequate staff [204,205]
Competing initiatives [206,207]
Lack of industry standards [194,208]
Lack of decision support tools [209211]
Liability concerns [212,213]
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 16 of 26
It has been found that numerous challenges are on the way to reducing the adoption
of DTs in the AEC industry. However, several researchers have conducted a study to find a
solution and alleviate the challenges of implementing DTs in the AEC industry, but more
work still needs to be conducted. Future work needs to be conducted on strategies to
reduce challenges in order to smoothly implement DTs in the AEC industry.
4.5.3. Negative Attitudes towards DTs in the AEC Industry
In this section, negative attitude towards DTs in the AEC industry has been explored.
Corruption is the most dominant factor leading the AEC industry to decline [
214
]. The
negativity of corruption exists at every point of construction projects, including numerous
project stakeholders, government officials, engineers, suppliers and so on [
215
]. For a
significant time, the AEC industry had no concerted strategy to tackle the issue, but a
series of events occurred in the late 1990s that contributed to the industry’s most far-
reaching attempts to counter corruption. Global governments, engineering/construction
organizations and individuals are making efforts to eradicate corruption and conduct
business in an honest, transparent and equitable manner [
215
]. In addition, a range of other
negative attitudes towards DTs in the AEC industry include kickbacks, bribery, tender
rigging, fraud, unethical practices and conflicts of interest [
216
]. Furthermore, kickbacks
and bribery are considered as the two faces of the same illegal coin. However, tender
rigging is another crucial problem that can take a number of forms. Owners’ employees
can participate by setting a very short period of bidding so that only companies they have
unlawfully informed of the forthcoming offer have adequate time to prepare a sound
bid. Owners’ workers can also exempt interested firms from the bid list and only allow
“favored” firms to participate [
217
]. Likewise, fraud, unethical practices and conflict of
interest also produce negativity on the way of development and productivity. Fraud is
an economic crime involving activities such as swindling, trickery, misinformation or
deceit [
218
]. Hence, it can be said that these negative factors not only harm the image of
the AEC industry but also pose serious questions about DTs. Table 6illustrates a better
picture of negative attitudes towards DTs in the AEC industry.
Table 6. Negative attitude towards DTs in the AEC industry.
Negative Attitudes References
Bribery [219]
Kickbacks [220]
Collusive tendering and bid rigging [221,222]
Embezzlement [223]
Conflict of interest [224,225]
Hidden tender prices [226]
Bid cutting [221,227]
4.5.4. Future Directions towards DTs in the AEC Industry
Robotics is considered to be one of the primary fields for DTs in the AEC industry,
but little attention has been paid to robotic systems. Performing various construction
tasks is dangerous and can lead to serious injuries and deaths, such as construction works
above the sea, at heights and inside deep trenches; thus, there is a need to develop user-
friendly, advanced and smart robots in future. The majority of the recent studies focused
on the use of AI methods to define, assess, monitor and handle security threats instead
of replacing people with robots in risky conditions. It is really important to concentrate
future research on inventing robots that function without human interference to solve that
problem [
228
]. In addition, it is suggested that collaborative robots be created and used,
i.e., robots designed to work with humans as employees add value to projects instead
of replacing people fully with robots. Robotics would add immense value to the AEC
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 17 of 26
industry, such as improved efficiency, performance, safety and quality. Likewise, in the AEC
industry, modularization and pre-fabrication, along with 3D printing, these advantages
are now becoming a prevalent approach. Another interesting area of science, such as the
development and implementation of robots for building construction in factories, is the
integration of robotics with modular construction technology and 3D printing technology.
The key question here is how robots can affect employee emotions and performance. This
should be addressed in future studies. It is also recommended to integrate BIM with cyber
security to ensure the potential of security of databases.
5. Summary of Findings
Figure 7provides a good picture of the overview of results in DTs in the AEC industry
under one umbrella. It is clear that the United States has the leading research in the field
of DTs led by China, Spain, the United Kingdom and Australia. The main topics of the
author’s keyword co-occurrence are also related to BIM, construction management, civil
engineering, photogrammetry, construction, AR, information technology and automation.
In addition, BIM is considered to be the most emerging DTs among all other DTs in the
AEC industry. BIM–block chain integration is seen as the most exciting new technology in
the AEC industry in terms of DTs. In addition, transparency and security issues need to be
further discussed in the future. In addition, inadequate skills, government policies, barriers
to culture and costs are the most important challenges facing the AEC industry. There
is a need to include the correct direction to be taken in order to escape these challenges.
In addition, laws and regulations in developed countries should be in place to reduce
negative attitudes and further boost the constructive approach of the AEC industry.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, x. https://doi.org/10.3390/xxxxx 17 of 26
5. Summary of Findings
Figure 7 provides a good picture of the overview of results in DTs in the AEC indus-
try under one umbrella. It is clear that the United States has the leading research in the
field of DTs led by China, Spain, the United Kingdom and Australia. The main topics of
the authors keyword co-occurrence are also related to BIM, construction management,
civil engineering, photogrammetry, construction, AR, information technology and auto-
mation. In addition, BIM is considered to be the most emerging DTs among all other DTs
in the AEC industry. BIM–block chain integration is seen as the most exciting new tech-
nology in the AEC industry in terms of DTs. In addition, transparency and security issues
need to be further discussed in the future. In addition, inadequate skills, government pol-
icies, barriers to culture and costs are the most important challenges facing the AEC in-
dustry. There is a need to include the correct direction to be taken in order to escape these
challenges. In addition, laws and regulations in developed countries should be in place to
reduce negative attitudes and further boost the constructive approach of the AEC indus-
try.
Figure 7. Summary of findings.
6. Conclusions and Limitations
This study focuses on the current state-of-the-art research related to DTs in the AEC
industry. A mixed systematic review method was adopted in order to provide a mapping
of DTs and deeper insights into the research gaps and needs. It was found that the pattern
of DTs publications in the AEC industry in the 21st century is strongly comparable to the
Figure 7. Summary of findings.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021,18, 6135 18 of 26
6. Conclusions and Limitations
This study focuses on the current state-of-the-art research related to DTs in the AEC
industry. A mixed systematic review method was adopted in order to provide a mapping
of DTs and deeper insights into the research gaps and needs. It was found that the pattern
of DTs publications in the AEC industry in the 21st century is strongly comparable to the
20th century. Likewise, the majority of publications in DTs in the AEC industry have also
contributed by Automation in construction. Furthermore, the United States is the leading
source of DTs research in the AEC industry. It was also found that BIM in the AEC industry
is considered to be the emerging DTs in all other DTs in the AEC industry. From a theoretical
perspective, this research is unique in the following ways: (a) this study presents the first
bibliometric-qualitative literature review appraising the state-of-the-art of research on DTs
in the AEC industry, (b) the research focuses on the research of DTs in the AEC context,
including new advancements, challenges, negative attitudes, and future directions (c) and
offering recommendations that provide guidelines on how to address the shortcomings in
defining further research. From a practical perspective, this study can help practitioners
with a modulated reference point that is easily accessible and grasp the latest techniques
and methods of DTs research in the AEC industry.
Despite its contributions, this study has limitations. First, the data is extracted from a
Scopus database. Further data will, in future, be collected by integrating data from different
databases for quantitative and qualitative analyses (e.g., Google Scholar, Web of Science
and so on). Secondly, this research was limited to journal articles only. For these reasons,
the results of the research do not fully reflect the entire available literature on DTs in the
AEC industry. The limitations listed above provide excellent opportunities for further
study, though they should be taken into account when evaluating the results of the research.
In future studies, however, data from various sources and a set of parameters may be used
for literary impact evaluations, coherence, and linkages to overcome these limitations.
Author Contributions:
B.M.: Conceptualization, Investigation, Data creation, Writing—original
draft. I.O.: Supervision, Writing—review and editing. J.C.P.: Writing—review and editing. All
authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Institutional Review Board Statement: Not applicable.
Informed Consent Statement: Not applicable.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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... The information included in a BIM data structure may be used to design or analyze, via field measurements, a facility's compliance with acoustic classes or performance [23]. BIM uses digital models throughout a built facility's whole lifecycle, from early conceptual and detailed design to construction and long-term operation [24]. BIM improves information flow between project team members at all stages, resulting in greater efficiency by reducing the timeconsuming and error-prone manual data entering that characterized previous paper-based workflows [10]. ...
... From the literature, BIM's benefits, challenges, and implementation are well discussed by researchers [16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]. On the contrary, research on soft factors such as trust in BIM-based construction projects is limited. ...
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Implementing building information modeling (BIM) in construction projects can provide team members with an effective collaboration process. Therefore, organizations are implementing BIM to acquire the benefits. However, project members still use traditional collaborative approaches due to the lack of trust. Therefore, this study aims to identify the factors, challenges, and strategies of trust in BIM-based construction projects. To achieve this aim, semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty industry professionals, and thematic analysis was used to analyze the collected data. The results suggest that the factors affecting trust in BIM-based construction projects are knowledge, skills, awareness, behavior, policy, system, cost, and management. Moreover, the challenges to creating trust in BIM-based construction projects are policy, cost, cooperation, system, service, behavior, expertise, and knowledge. Finally, the strategies used to create trust in BIM-based construction projects are management, preparation, capability, cooperation, awareness, individuals, education, and government. In summary, this study provides insights that can help industry practitioners to improve construction projects by reducing unnecessary distrust among team members.
... The development of digital data-acquisition technologies towards the attainment of 3-dimensional (3D) informational models has attracted the interest of the research community [1] (p. 1) and the construction sector [2,3]. Researchers are working to achieve sustainable solutions for enhancing the accuracy of construction progress monitoring operations via digitalization, as it reduces the required effort and human errors [4]. ...
... Using CloudCompare, the noise was removed for each model separately and the number of points cloud was noted again. Thus, the % noise for each model was determined by evaluating the difference between the two readings using Equation (2). ...
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In the attainment of digitization and sustainable solutions under Industry 4.0, effective and economical technology like photogrammetry is gaining popularity in every field among professionals and researchers alike. In the market, various photogrammetry tools are available. These tools employ different techniques and it is hard to identify the best among them. This study is an attempt to develop a methodology for the assessment of photogrammetry tools. Overall, 37 photogrammetry tools were found via literature review and open sources, out of which 12 tools were shortlisted. The evaluation process consisted of three steps, i.e., metadata and visual inspection, comparison with the ground truth model, and comparison with the averaged-merged point cloud model. In addition, a validation test was also performed on the final sorted photogrammetry tools. This study followed a sustainable construction progress monitoring theme for rebar and covered the maximum number of photogrammetry tools for comparison by considering the most authentic evaluation and validation techniques, which make it exclusive.
... More digitalisation in construction would mean more automation [9], robotics [10], digital twin [6], and machine learning [7]; innovations that are generated due to the embedment of traditional construction processes with technological advancements [11]. In the United Kingdom, Ninan et al. [12] investigated the narratives of innovation in construction, inferring the role of innovators' narration in driving an effective transformation. ...
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... Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Science Direct. The WoS and Scopus are considered the most comprehensive scientific databases due to their reliable and transparent bibliometric tools for visualization and research analysis (Braun et al., 2019;Manzoor et al., 2021a). Likewise, Science Direct and ASCE are also renowned for their literature collection and are frequently used by researchers (Alaloul et al., 2021a). ...
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... The use of digital technologies in the construction sector is undertaking a considerable transition from traditional labour-intensive methods to automation [1]. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) that make it easier to create, store, and organize knowledge as well as encourage various forms of communication between humans are referred to the DTs [2]. One of the most-common digital technologies is laser scanning. ...
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... and bibliometric software packages invention have led to bibliometric visualization of journals [13]. A bibliometric study is useful in examining the annual research productivity, most frequent keywords, top-cited publications, and the trend in publications to learn about particular research filed quantitatively [14]. A qualitative analysis plus a bibliometric study help to gain deeper insight into scholarly outputs as quantitative and qualitative approaches are both used together to visualize the information and relationship among the academic papers by a systematic analysis [15]. ...
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