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Everyone knows that no matter how large or small a construction project, you’re bound to run into unforeseen issues once you get under way. Making changes after the fact is extremely expensive as well as time-consuming. However, many design and construction firms are dealing with this age-old problem in an entirely new and modern way: virtual reality.
You’ve probably heard about how virtual reality is revolutionizing the real estate industry, but it actually goes much deeper than that, affecting how architectural agencies and construction companies go about planning, and building their projects from the ground up.
US construction giant McCarthy Building Companies has been dabbling in the world of virtual reality since 2012 when it invested in its own Building Information Modeling (BIM) Cave to allow users to collaboratively view planned construction sites such as hospitals or office spaces. Since then they’ve made great strides in the realm of virtual reality.
“We’re at a point where we can fly a drone around, laser scan an area, upload that model into a VR headset, and walk through the model using a virtual immersion tool,” says Mike Oster, vice president and CIO at McCarthy.
Through the power of virtual reality, they can visit virtual pre-construction job sites, and give guided tours of completed buildings before they’ve even turned over a single shovel. Details like the placement of trash cans, the exact layout of a factory floor, and even the size of the space between desks in an office can be viewed in full 3D detail giving clients a clearer idea of how a finished space will look than with traditional 2D drawings or renderings.
Since they began implementing this technology, they’ve seen faster project approvals, better client interaction and increased satisfaction with the final results. Because clients no longer need to rely on their imagination to envision what the site will eventually become, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.
Using computers to aid with the design of a building is not exactly a new concept. In fact, it would be extremely surprising to hear of a building being built today that wasn’t designed on a computer. So how does virtual reality really improve on this?
For one thing, virtual reality is immersive. You don’t feel the size and scale of what you’re designing when you’re sitting in your chair looking at a computer screen. However, by strapping on a headset, you put yourself directly into the environment of the building. You can get a much better sense of what it’ll be like to actually be inside the building interacting with the space.
For instance, you can sense if the cafeteria feels too cramped or if a countertop is too high or too low. You can see how people move about a space to gauge whether the flow of the layout works. During the recent construction of one hospital in Los Angeles, doctors and nurses were invited to virtually tour the building in order to give their feedback on various features from the placement of wall outlets at the nurses’ station to the configuration of the beds in the ICU.
Details like these are hard to tell by looking at a flat computer screen. By catching them early and making revisions, you can avoid costly mistakes and delays further down the line.
Virtual and augmented reality are changing the way construction teams are working on job sites as well. General contractors can be brought in earlier in the design phase to weigh in on the building process, and collaborate on changes that have to be made due to constructibility issues before they run into them during construction.
Workers on the job site can use augmented reality to overlay renderings of finished features in the exact place they’re going to be built. For instance, instead of relying on blueprints and flat images, a worker could point an iPad at the space where a staircase is meant to be built, and see exactly how it’s supposed to fit in that location, and what it will look like from all angles.
Not only that, workers can use augmented reality to ‘look through’ walls and see where wires, and pipes are placed to avoid accidents. Excavation teams can use an iPad to see how much deeper they need to dig. Teams can view printed instructions to see how a piece is supposed to be assembled. And they can be warned of potential hazards that they might encounter.
The possibilities for virtual reality in the construction industry are only just beginning to be realized. Virtual reality can help:
Early-adopters such as McCarthy are already reaping the rewards of their initial investments. Still, as each day goes by, VR is becoming more and more accessible to a general audience. The more companies that adopt this economically lucrative technology, the more innovative new uses for it will be developed. If you’d like to be on the forefront of this virtual industrial revolution, get in contact with RenderThat and we’ll show you how you can put virtual reality to work in your business.