ECU team to support Army with building maintenance scheduling

Dr. Carol Massarra had to act fast. And in a matter of only hours, the assistant professor and graduate program director for the East Carolina University Department of Construction Management had put together a team to support maintenance of Army buildings.

Massarra is working with construction management associate professor Dr. Yilei Huang, Dr. Kamran Sartipi, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Ciprian Popoviciu, assistant professor in the Department of Technology Systems, on a $226,088 grant from the Civil-Military Innovation Institute.

“We formed this team within five hours,” Massarra said. “… It was a Friday, and by Friday night the team had formed and we started working on the proposal that next Monday, so it was really very fast. We submitted our proposal within three weeks.”

That proposal offers a way for the Army to improve on building maintenance schedules, Massarra said. Though the project is looking at one specific building at Fort Liberty in Fayetteville, the project could have impacts for all Army building maintenance.

“This building, they have two maintenance systems, and these two systems are not giving them correct predictions about maintenance, so they are losing money,” Massarra said. “They have some issues with HVAC, with mold, with roof damage, so they want us to assess these two maintenance systems, assess the building also, and they want us to use the data to come up with a predictive model that will allow them to accurately predict when building components need maintenance so they can figure out their budget. We’ll be working with three types of buildings, one with a new system, one with an old system and one with no maintenance system at all. For each one we’ll have to figure out a way for them to predict future maintenance.”

Everyone on the team is an expert in something, and I think that will help in resolving the issue.
- Dr. Carol Massarra

Massarra said the project matches her doctorate dissertation, which drew her interest.

“I’m familiar with how to assess the building and how to collect data related to building attributes,” she said. “That’s what attracted me, and what else attracted me was that they wanted to develop a predictive model, and my dissertation was on developing a predictive model to predict building failure during a hurricane event, so it is something I’m familiar with. And something inside me just said, ‘Go for it.’ I don’t know why but go for it.”

The team includes two undergraduate students from construction management and one graduate student each from computer science and technology systems. Massarra said each department within the College of Engineering and Technology has specific responsibilities.

“Construction management will be responsible for assessing buildings, checking the HVAC systems and collecting maintenance data,” she said. “Computer science will be responsible for developing the model that will predict future maintenance, and technology systems will be responsible for developing a LoRa demonstration, which is using sensors, and we’ll be doing this for the buildings that have no maintenance system, so we’re proposing using this new technology, these LoRa sensors.”

Massarra said she looks forward to working with the college’s other departments on the project.

“It’s an interdisciplinary project,” she said. “This is something nice that construction management, computer science and technology systems are collaborating on. Everyone on the team is an expert in something, and I think that will help in resolving the issue. Each one of us is responsible for something we’re good at, so I think that will help very much in solving the issue.”