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Introducing Professor Albert Thomas

                                                                                                                   

We are delighted to welcome Professor Albert Thomas to the IIT Bombay family. He joined the Department of Civil Engineering of IIT-B this year.

The professor graduated with a B. Tech degree in Civil Engineering from the Kerala University in 2006 and did his M. Tech in Construction Technology and Management from IIT Madras by 2008. He was an Assistant Manager at L&T Construction till 2012 after which he was the Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Construction Management and Research till 2013. Prof. Thomas achieved his Doctorate in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2017 and later worked as a Senior Consultant at Pyramid Consulting International for a year before joining IIT Bombay as an Assistant Professor.

His research is broadly focused in developing frameworks that help adopt sustainable and lean practices in the construction domain, targeted to reduce the waste and environmental impacts in various built infrastructure systems. The main techniques adopted by his research group include system dynamics simulation, agent based modelling, discrete event simulation, distributed simulation, life cycle analysis, energy simulation, and various lean construction based techniques.

Prof. Albert Thomas’s specialization is building energy modelling and multi-method simulation techniques. Buildings consume 40% of the total energy produced globally, making this sector an ideal choice for devising strategies aimed at reducing this energy consumption. International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that the world population to touch the 9.0 billion mark in 2040, and the next decades are going to witness a strong need towards constructing new sustainable buildings, as well as retrofitting the existing built environments. In order to design such sustainable built infrastructure on a large scale, we need robust approaches that help us model and analyse the various energy needs and its influencing factors. In buildings, more than 80% of the energy consumption occurs during the use and maintenance phase. Therefore, adopting a life cycle based approach by accounting for the dynamic building behaviour, is the key to optimize the energy consumption. However, the professor goes on to explain, the current energy simulation tools are static in nature, which makes it hard to seamlessly model various dynamic energy influencing factors, and its energy effects. One recent development in this domain is the concept of co-simulation, wherein the dynamic energy influencing factors are modelled separately and coupled with the static energy simulation tools. A few frameworks that offer these capabilities include LABS, FMU, and BCVTB. This relatively new development has immense potential to result in useful frameworks that help model the building’s dynamic energy behaviour, and thereby reducing the energy consumption from the building sector.

In addition to his current research area which is centred around building science, the Professor is also keen on addressing the core issues in the construction domain, by adopting various simulation and modelling techniques. Models help us to understand and optimize a system. Construction projects are still marred by issues such as time delays and huge cost overruns. There are several reasons for this happening, but in general, we need to make sure that the various construction processes are being done using optimum methods with maximum efficiency. Simulation based analysis of construction activities help to model any system prior to its implementation, and study the complex interactions while in a simulated operation stage.

Prof. Thomas explains that Construction management is a unique profession, which needs more focus towards learning the ways of project execution rather than just securing textbook knowledge. Therefore, the main focus in designing his lecture plans is to help develop the students’ basic understanding of the course material, and provide them the opportunity to solve examples related to construction projects. He is of the opinion that the most effective presentation methodologies include more images and visual-impact videos. Also, in order to create a vibrant classroom environment that supports both foundational and experimental learning, active student participation in the classroom is important. In addition, He would try to develop a variety of out of class activities and site visits.

Prof. Albert Thomas loves music. For the past several years, he has been undertaking structured classical music learning sessions and is keen on continuing that journey. Apart from that, he loves spending quality time with his kids and enjoys learning along with them.

We wish Prof. Thomas a great and prosperous year ahead.