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Virtual reality in construction

What is virtual reality?

In technical terms, virtual reality (VR) is described as a computer-generated 3-dimensional environment that can be explored as well as interacted with by an individual.

Virtual reality is an exciting innovation slowly being implemented into the construction industry. Virtual reality or VR is “a computer generated simulation of three-dimensional (3D) environment, in which the user is able to both view and manipulate the contents of that environment”. It has many applications that can benefit a project with increased jobsite education and safety, Architectural Design improvement and communication with involved parties from the owner down to the laborer, and help to exceed owner‟s expectations and lower project costs. VR is broken down into desktop and immersive VR categories. Desktop is displayed on computer monitors or TVs, which is known as Cave Automatic Virtual Environment or CAVE. CAVE consists of multiple monitors joined together to form a large screen that allows the user to feel a part of the virtual world Immersive virtual environment or “IVE will typically have the following features; it will surround its user, obscuring cues from the physical environment and increasing the sense of „presence‟ within the IVE; provide a three-dimensional visual representation of the virtual environment; track the user‟s location and orientation and update the virtual scene to match the user‟s movements, and give the user some degree of control over the objects in it”. There is great potential for improving all parts of the construction process by implementing this technology.

Virtual Reality-

Due to the large amount of popularity surrounding virtual reality, Virtual reality oftentimes tends to be overlooked by the public as a whole. While this may be because of a basic misunderstanding of the topic, Virtual reality certainly holds merit in the world of construction technology, especially when it comes to educational, architectural, and field engineering processes for both students and professionals alike. Virtual reality consists of a live, imitative version of the real world – with the capacity to add certain elements to the simulated landscape. Virtual reality was initially introduced into the gaming world as an entertainment alternative, but the possibility of its educational potential are being thrust into the spotlight by architectural and engineering schools across the globe. “Virtual reality (VR) creates anenvironment where computer generated information is superimposed onto the user‟s view of a real-world scene”,

Virtual reality (VR) is becoming powerful tools in the construction industry, allowing both private and commercial customers to see, walk through and even feel what their new property will look like, before the foundations have been laid.

Customers wearing a VR headset like the HTC Vive can see virtual, 3D, 360-degree images of what their new property will look like. They can physically walk around these virtual spaces, inspect the smallest details, see how shadows move as the sun passes overhead, and adjust the interior design to their heart's content.

The popular image of the construction industry in the United Kingdom is one of an unsophisticated industry which resists any changes to its archaic working practices. However, it is fair to say that there has been a cautious shift in attitude towards the use of computers in recent years . In general, the industry seeks to use technology which is already established elsewhere in either the manufacturing, automotive or aerospace industries. It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in construction is almost unknown. 

A simple calculation shows that a computer capable of over ten thousand million floating point operations per second (10 GFLOPS) is required in order to generate a flow of synthetic images which exceeds the capacity of the human eye to distinguish individual frames. Comparable levels of computing power are required in order to synthesise the effects of a sound source that appears to move in space around the operator . While these numbers are beyond the reach of desktop machines at the present time, price versus performance statistics suggest that computers with this processing power will be available within the next ten years.

Visualizing the construction process

The creation of a VR-based visual interface between a computer and user for a construction context would not only facilitate the validation and evaluation of the generated construction plan but would also support further decision making such as resource allocation and progress monitoring. Computer graphics development has already led to a variety of visualisation tools and simulation techniques for the construction planner. For example, methods exist for integrating computer graphics with artificial intelligence tools in civil engineering. The problem is that existing computer-based design tools were originally developed for designers to deal with the design of a product. This meant producing drawings or models of a building or structure. By contrast, construction planning tasks such as scheduling are an example of process design. The visualization and simulation of a construction process may give a planner a better perception of the complexity of a project. In large scale projects, the approach can be extended to monitor not only the construction process itself, but also the activities of plant and equipment. It would be possible to check the different locations of construction equipment and temporary facilities in space and time, thereby preventing delays and interference between items of plant and equipment.

Currently, research work at the University of Strathclyde is investigating collaborative visual planning and simulation of the construction process using the medium of Virtual Reality. Interactive collaboration will be through the medium of the VR model of the site and will employ intelligent simulation of the construction process. The interface will also help the users verify and refine the construction schedule for on and off site work. This schedule will have been generated by a knowledge base of the system which integrates construction progress with onsite activities and plant in a dynamic fashion.

The use of 3D graphic models of buildings and structures will be used to visualize the basic activities of the construction processes, as detailed elsewhere. The planner will be able to observe the progress of the simulated project using different scenarios, or at various stages of execution. Deviation from a planned schedule may be shown using different colors. As a result, the planner will see not only that a delay has occurred, but also its location. Moreover, an expert system can be incorporated into the managerial part of the system to advice on what actions may be taken to rectify such situations.

In order to use such a dynamic visual status of the project activities during the construction process, it is necessary to present a comprehensive picture of the project including new structures, landscape development and site organization with plant and facilities. The visual status of construction work progress related to the site organization is very important to project planners and managers as it gives them the ability to compare and validate several alternatives for plant and facilities location on site. It is hoped that improved information will help the planner to arrive at better solutions. Different levels of detail are needed during the project simulation compared to the construction phases. Each building may be presented by work elements or segments, examples of which might be a structural assembly or finishing works. Every segment is associated with a group of activities requird to complete the segment. As a result, each segment may be represented by its constituent activities, the activities of each of its major trades, or the activities of its various responsibility groups. Each of these sub-activities needs to be monitored separately for its actual versus planned status. Three hierarchical levels have been identified as sufficient for planning and monitoring tasks. The use of VR visualisation techniques will dramatically improve the presentation of the relevant information.

Virtual reality is being used in the construction industry to improve design, safety and training, and to avoid costly overruns.

While mainstream virtual reality is currently perceived as a tool for video games and entertainment purposes, developers and construction experts are finding practical applications for the technology in their field. Implementing virtual reality in construction has opened several avenues for improving design, pitching projects, and enhancing training and safety. These aren't just ideas for the distant future – companies are implementing these ideas today to much success.

How do the realtors benefit from Virtual reality technologies?

VR is becoming extremely popular in real estate businesses because of a number of benefits. These are mainly:

1. Engaging users through visual interactions

When real estate projects limit themselves in 2 dimensions, they seldom offer more information to the customers; thereby, missing that X-factor. 3D architectural rendering makes this information more meaningful. By presenting all such construction projects in Virtual reality, clients are able to get a total visualization of the property from every possible angle. An Virtual reality app can produce a 3D representation of the property from 2D image. In Virtual reality, the users will be able to do virtually anything with a rendered model. For example, through Virtual reality, a house can be stripped off from the base to reveal the layouts of different floors. Similarly, many more things can be done.

2. Clarity on the product / service offered

A simple example can clear this thing up. Place yourself in the shoes of your customer. Now imagine a scenario. You click on an app on your smartphone and select a property of your choice that you want to check out. In Virtual reality, you’ll be able to hold up your phone and create a window into your selected property. You’ll virtually be able to walk around the property, check out anything as you wish. You’ll also be able to walk down the street and discover new properties on the app. Just point your phone at any house (which is up for sale) of your choice and see several real-time stats on your phone itself, such as the price, status, contact information etc. All such things are possible with Virtual reality. So, you see that VR does provide enough clarity on the products/services offered.

3. Publicity in real estate

The use of Virtual reality in real estate businesses is greatly capable of capturing the attention of the customers. It has been found that customers who have generated enough interest in a specific property viewed through an VR device are more likely to involve in a conversation associated with the company; thereby spreading the word around. Bigger engagements from these campaigns lead to higher excitement, which in turn, results in increased publicity. Customers who have found an affinity to a particular property have a natural tendency of consulting with their family, relatives or friends. That, in turn results in more publicity. And since Virtual reality is an avant-grade form of technology, its inclusion can cause quite a stir among the public.

4. Mobility

Using virtual reality technologies, you will be able to provide your customers with VR tours anywhere, anytime and from any place of your choice. People who are taking such VR tours can also reach certain vantage points that might be physically impossible for human beings to reach and visualize their choice of property to their heart’s content. The experience is undoubtedly very gratifying.

5. More customer reach

Mobile applications supporting AR/VR features are readily available on smart mobile devices. Given this ease of access, it can be said that there isn’t any easier way to reach potential customers with all required information on apartment and house availabilities other than this one here. All such project information can be seen anywhere as per convenience in the form of an interactive brochure. All that’s needed is a smart mobile device, an app and the brochure of the company. You can easily and conveniently build up your AR/VR portfolio and refer to all those projects offline as per your requirements. That makes your tasks a whole lot easier in a meeting or in an event where you are required to present some of your sample works or ideas.

6. Cost-saving

Virtual reality, these days is considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways of growing a business and surpass geographical barriers. Overcoming geographical barriers means more potential customers which, in turn leads to better growth in business. Thus, this point alone nods the favour in the direction of VR especially when the business in concern is one that’s based on real-estates.

7. Improved Brand Royalty

Virtual reality is not all about driving sales. It’s one of the most effective ways of improving your brand loyalty. Your customers might be intrigued enough to come back to you again and again. If you are looking to buy a property, anVirtual or virtual reality app can be immensely beneficial for you to help you make the right decision. With a virtual reality app, you will be able to take virtual tours of any property anywhere on your mobile phone. Through anVirtual reality app, you will be able to scan a banner, a flyer or any sorts of printed material that has an integration of Virtual reality in it. You will simply be able to see the property come to life. Thus, searching becomes much easier. VR will also make it much easier for you to find the location of the property. It will also help you know the exact distance from your location to that of the property. You will be able to know the details of the property on the app itself like the total area of the property, the price, number of rooms etc. All such information will really be beneficial for you to make your decision accordingly.

 

Urban construction

Building Information technology is rapidly changing our approach to landscape architecture. The digital input within construction management has rapidly increased in the last decade or so. Likewise, the focus has shifted to urban landscaping when it comes to green practices within architecture.

The Efficiency of Building Information Modeling and IT Tools

Technology allows a better comprehension of large scale systems and this allows architects and town planners to develop schemes that engage and augment ecological and social paradigms. A basic precedent for this principle was the McHarg’s plan for Woodlands in Texas, leading people to come closer to nature. The design successfully used a storm drainage system, with water flows at the center of the landscape.

Another significant paradigm is the use of building information modeling (BIM) within landscaping. Simulation based design, stemming from IT resources, enables a vast number of architectural and engineering applications, such as modeling of energy, behavior prediction, project management and structural integrity analysis. BIM is not merely about the graphic element behind construction, but also about the efficiency that can be inculcated within landscaping. A major problem within construction management is the ‘lags’ that are created by various aspects of project management.

The Benefits of BIM

Green practices are also about lesser or optimal usage of construction infrastructure. IT input can help to create better management of building projects and they demonstrate this with a real time dashboard that keeps track of projects, contacts and documents. By reducing the lag between various processes, projects can be completed in less time. This means less time is spent on auxiliary issues and more is spent on the actual landscaping.

BIM Helps Guarantees Quality Assurance

BIM also leads to quality assurance parameters within landscaping and construction. This can be seen with the development of Building Information Modeling Maturity (BIMM), a rating metric used to monitor the modeling process and generate efficient designs. With the help of BIM tools and IT resources, landscape analysis can be explored, developed and documented for design in a better way. On one level, BIM allows storage of object information while on the other; it allows planning for all sorts of landscape elements. Through simulation, walk-through animation and top notch visualization, landscape architects can produce detailed designs.

The Importance of BIM in the Future

As per an estimate, nearly 70% of the global population will inhabit urban areas by 2050. This means that city center development, generation of green spaces, infrastructure construction and building information modeling would be at the center of aiding the construction industry. Urban landscaping is evolving at a faster rate owing to IT input. Architects should explore news ways using these resources to generate large scale designs of landscaping within urban areas.

 

Structural Steel

Building information modeling (BIM) is quickly becoming a formal procedure for modern steel construction. From software that optimizes the building envelope with information on dead load and structural load inputs for wind, seismic, and other requirements, to programs enabling sustainable design by addressing energy efficiency and green product specification, BIM processes are being adopted across the country.

Recent research conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction shows BIM adoption in the construction industry expanded to more than 70 percent of architects and engineers in 2012, compared to 17 percent in 2007 and 49 percent in 2009.1 However, while use is increasing, the concept of component-specific BIM for applications such as wall, floor, and ceiling systems is only beginning to gain traction among design and building professionals. Sometimes referred to as ‘add-ins,’ these tools allow specific products and systems to be directly imported into a larger BIM design and shared with the entire construction team, enhancing project coordination and collaboration.

Even though the evolution of CAD design and drafting has benefitted the AEC industry a lot, Building Information Modeling Services make it more client-friendly, errorless, and accurate. Architectural BIM Services and Structural BIM Services help architects, engineers, and other professionals achieve better workflow. Let’s dig deep into these services to understand how professionals are using this new age technology:

1. Covers entire lifetime of a project :

While all the other services can be hired only till the project delivery, Building Information Modeling or BIM is used for the entire lifespan of the project. After project delivery, BIM services can be used for operation and maintenance of the building. The stakeholders and owners can access the available information for better decision making.

2. Using higher dimensional models:

Steel Structural Engineer at Steel Construction Detailing Pvt. Ltd.

Even though the evolution of CAD design and drafting has benefitted the AEC industry a lot, Building Information Modeling Services make it more client-friendly, errorless, and accurate. Architectural BIM Services and Structural BIM Services help architects, engineers, and other professionals achieve better workflow. Let’s dig deep into these services to understand how professionals are using this new age technology:

    1 Covers entire lifetime of a project :

While all the other services can be hired only till the project delivery, Building Information Modeling or BIM is used for the entire lifespan of the project. After project delivery, BIM services can be used for operation and maintenance of the building. The stakeholders and owners can access the available information for better decision making.

    2. Using higher dimensional models :

BIM services increase the scope of 3D CAD models with added dimensions as follows:

  1. BIM offers 4D models for keeping a check on the schedule of the project. 
  2. It offers 5D models for completing the project with cost efficiency. 
  3. Also, it gives 6D models to answer questions like how, when, what and where.

This means the owner is able to get an exact idea of the product or service at the end of the project through these models.

    3. Efficient facilities management:

With BIM models, attributes can be easily attached to the components. This allows for effective facilities management. Managing and ordering equipment becomes simpler.

    4. Shared information:

BIM makes construction process effective as it allows sharing updated information that is also error-free. The stakeholders and owners thus remain updated with this shared information. A comprehensive model is linked to the central database which allows owners to access the right information at right time. They can thus take right decisions regarding their project.

    5. Effective communication: Architectural BIM Services encourages an effective communication between the designers and clients. This is aided by the visual models provided by BIM technology. It allows for hassle-free and transparent communication. The clients can get an early insight into the project with walkthroughs and virtual models. It is also easy to communicate building’s performance and behavioral patterns to the clients.

    6. Realistic modeling: The drawings prepared using BIM are accurate as mentioned earlier. It also generates lifelike views to get an exact idea of the final product. Thus, clients get what they see and demand. All the requirements can be communicated during the early phase of designing and a real image of it can be viewed through BIM.

 

Virtual design and construction

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) represents a substantial evolution in how construction projects are delivered—and SSOE is a leader in its implementation. More than a new software application, VDC is a process and delivery approach that fully leverages the capabilities of multi-disciplinary models from design through construction. Much of BIM’s underutilized potential has been in the “I” (information) specifically, the ability to flow information throughout a project’s lifecycle. VDC capitalizes on that potential.

Traditional project delivery methods may allow each participant in your construction project—the designer, constructor, and fabricator—to apply the benefits of 3D / BIM to their specific aspect of the project. However, these methods do not leverage 3D / BIM models throughout the course of the project. For example, although designers can develop better designs with the clash detection feature of 3D, traditional project delivery contracts still output these designs to the contractor as 2D drawings. As a result, construction companies and fabricators are forced to create their own 3D models based on these 2D drawings. Consider the time, cost, and potential for error that could be reduced by using a single model.

VDC solves this problem, replacing inefficiency with integration. The benefits include schedule compression, higher quality design and construction, cost savings, and completed projects much more closely aligned with design intent. The need for separate as-built drawings is also eliminated with use of a VDC model because materials are procured, fabricated, and installed directly from the model.

The emergence of VDC may be the greatest change in AEC in a generation or more. Through VDC, SSOE has provided an infrastructure that removes the barriers and brings the full advantages of multi-disciplinary, collaborative BIM to your projects.

BENEFITS OF VDC

  • Increases collaboration among design and construction team members
  • Allows owners to visualize the end result, which empowers them to make more informed decisions
  • Allows for cost-saving options, like prefabrication
  • Reduces the unknowns
  • Improves quality
  • Accelerates the schedule
  • Improves safety conditions

 

Construction Technology

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its life-cycle; defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition.

It should come as no surprise that the use of BIM construction has increased significantly in recent years. In fact, according to research by McGraw-Hill Construction, “The percentage of companies using BIM jumped from 17 percent in 2007, to 49 percent in 2009, to 71 percent in 2012.” (Source: Contractors Center Point). This demonstrates overwhelming agreement that BIM is invaluable to any project.

However, those who use BIM in construction merely as a tool to simplify certain things are missing out on the tremendous benefits it offers when used as a comprehensive process.

 

BIM in Construction: Benefits of BIM

There is no doubt that, when it comes to detail, organization and overall advantage, 3D building software trumps paper every time; 2D modeling was time-consuming and costly, whereas the same information can be entered in a BIM program in a fraction of the time, resulting in a much richer, more detailed model as well. But what are the benefits of using BIM modeling as part of the construction process, particularly in design-build applications?

1. Companies using BIM for construction understand the importance of your time and money, as they utilize a program that significantly improves the overall schedule and timing of a project.

2. When conceptualizing a project, BIM modeling as a process brings the team together with the client in a collaborative effort to generate the ideal facility design, according to the client’s needs.

3. When estimating costs and scheduling tasks, BIM simplifies estimation and takes into consideration all systems needed in the project.

4. During the preconstruction phase, once all systems are designed, clash detection technology within BIM can help identify and solve potential problems. This significantly reduces the time it will take to build, dramatically reduces the need for rebuilds as a result of error, and also helps significantly reduce the amount of wasted materials—which helps ensure the project stays on schedule and on budget. These technologies eliminate the need for time-consuming paper modeling, which are no match for 3D building software.

5. During the construction phase, BIM technology provides visualization of the construction progress, in order to look ahead to steps that follow, etc. This is something that is simply impossible to do in paper form.

6. As a method for planning, estimating and coordinating, it greatly benefits clients down the line, should they need to expand their facilities in the future.

Compared to 2D paper modeling, BIM modeling is the clear choice for companies looking to expedite commercial projects while saving time, money and energy.