ASCE has honored Shuai Li, A.M.ASCE, with the 2018 Collingwood Prize as the lead author of the paper “Integrating Natural Language Processing and Spatial Reasoning for Utility Compliance Checking,” Journal of Construction Management, December 2016.
In the United States from 1994 to 2013, 5,623 significant pipeline incidents were reported, with a total of 362 fatalities, 1,397 injuries, and $6.6 billion in property damage. A primary cause of such recurrent utility incidents is noncompliance with the spatial configurations between utilities and their surroundings that are prescribed in specifications and guidelines. For instance, accident pipe segments in the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion did not meet any known pipeline specifications. Detection of spatial defects, according to the textual descriptions, is difficult and time consuming. This deficiency is due to the lack of spatial cognition in many rule-checking systems to process massive amounts of data.
The study presented in the nominated paper automated utility compliance checking by integrating natural language processing (NLP) and spatial reasoning. The developed NLP algorithm translates the textual descriptions of spatial configurations into computer-processable spatial rules. Spatial reasoning executes the extracted spatial rules following a logical order in a geospatial information system (GIS) to identify and visualize noncompliance. The presented innovation in effect transforms utility compliance checking from a skill-based to a knowledge-based activity. It enables proactive identification and visualization of noncompliance in utility installations and excavation operations, thereby preventing accidental utility strikes, protecting the nation’s underground infrastructure, and improving construction safety.
The Collingwood Prize is awarded to the author or authors, under 35 years of age, of a paper describing an engineering project with which the author is directly connected, or recording investigations contributing to engineering knowledge to which the author has contributed some essential contributions and which contains a rational digest of results.