General Purpose Systems For Effective Construction Simulation


This paper examines the characteristics of discrete-event simulation systems in terms of their application breadth (general or special purpose), modeling paradigm (process interaction vs. activity scanning), and flexibility (programmable or not). Several construction simulation systems are examined with primary emphasis on CYCLONE and STROBOSCOPE as representatives of the wide range of tools that are currently available. CYCLONE is a well-established, widely used and simple system that is easy to learn and effective for modeling many simple construction operations. STROBOSCOPE is a programmable and extensible simulation system designed for modeling complex construction operations in detail and for the development of special-purpose simulation tools. The characteristics of these systems, as well as other recent developments, illustrate that an effective general-purpose simulation tool for construction is in essence one based on extended forms of Activity Cycle Diagrams and the Activity Scanning modeling paradigm. As explained through several examples, these representations are indeed the most convenient and intuitive for construction simulation systems. Furthermore, the programmability of such a system is the principal factor that determines its power, flexibility, and ease of learning and use.


Julio C. Martinez

Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil Engineering

Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061-0105, U.S.A.


Photios G. Ioannou

Civil & Environmental Engineering Department

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2125, U.S.A.



STROBOSCOPE, CYCLONE, activity scanning, process interaction, activity cycle diagrams, construction, simulation, modeling, animation, simulation strategy, earthmoving, equipment.


Martinez, J.C. and P.G. Ioannou. "General Purpose Systems For Effective Construction Simulation," Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, American Society of Civil Engineers, (125)4, July-August 1999.