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Optimize a Building’s Design Before It's Built With Virtual Reality Applications
By Amy Beth Miller for America's Backbone Weekly

Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals surveyed by ARC Document Solutions Inc., a leading document and information management solutions provider for the (AEC) industry, predict virtual reality (VR) applications will increasingly be used to check building designs. They cited benefits such as:

  • Visualizing projects
  • Completing work faster
  • Decreasing the number of workers required
  • Using less material.

With the three-dimensional computer modeling that virtual reality applications allow, team members can better manage projects by detecting problems earlier, improving workflow and communicating more effectively with clients.

The architecture firm Tsoi/Kobus & Associates explains that when virtually experiencing a space, clients can identify issues that would be unclear with a traditional model, such as whether there is enough physical space for people to move around during workflows, whether ceilings are too low, or even whether windows provide enough light into a space.

Portable Systems
With today's technology, virtual reality programs are becoming increasingly mobile. During a hospital renovation at Virginia Commonwealth University, the construction company used an Oculus Rift system that fits inside a backpack to take the virtual experience onsite and show 40 doctors, nurses and other employees how the proposed workspace would feel and function.

Global design firm Gensler is also arranging virtual meetings inside proposed design plans. Wearing a VR device, people from around the world can virtually walk through the space of a design together as they discuss possible ways to modify the design before construction ever starts. "The ability to share virtual renderings may fundamentally change the way design plans are experienced," Alan Robles, a Gensler experience designer wrote in Building Design + Construction.

Using the emerging technology of augmented reality (AR), Robles imagines designers being able to walk through a construction site in progress, see the future of what it would look like, and make modifications while construction is still underway.

Large firms are developing VR systems that can run on a website, through an app, with VR headsets, and even through gaming systems such as the Wii and Playstation platforms.

Consultants at KJWW say virtual reality systems can save project costs by minimizing change orders and reducing the cost of modeling, such as making full-scale models of critical areas. And it's much easier for a business to test different design options.

VR allows team members in different locations to virtually stand together in the same design space to collaborate and discuss problems.

The technology isn't mature yet, but developers are working hard on ways to make virtual reality an even more vivid experience, such as improving peripheral vision and the ability to move while wearing a headset.

What may become even more common on construction sites is augmented reality, which allows users to see the connection between a two-dimensional drawing and the actual site where they are standing.

The camera in a smartphone or tablet can be used to take a photo of a plan or jobsite and integrate that with common types of design software, according to Architect magazine.

This innovative technology will continue to evolve, and costs for VR systems will drop as they become more common. Within the next five years the ability to take a virtual tour will become a common expectation in design and construction projects.

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Amy Beth Miller is a writer and editor helping people succeed in business for more thana decade. She has written news articles, features, blogs, newsletters,e-letters white papers and training manuals.

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