Virtual Reality has for a long time now been making waves in the construction industry. However, many people have no idea what it entails. This article will serve as an eye-opener to what Virtual Reality is about and how it affects and impacts Construction Technology.
Sometimes shortened as VR, Virtual Reality refers to a simulated environment whereby an interactive computer-generated user experience can take place. It is just like an imitation of a real environment for a user to interact with. Virtual Reality involves the use of VR headsets or sometimes, multi-projected environments, to generate images, sounds, and sensations as a simulation of a real environment/condition. The user can observe or interact with the environment by making use of these devices.
Sometimes, people mistake Virtual Reality for Augmented Reality. They are quite different from each other. Augmented Reality is a live view of a physical and real environment, which could be direct or indirect. However, Augmented Reality, AR, is supplemented by virtual computer-generated sensory input which may include sound, graphics, video, and other information. However, Virtual Reality is not supplemented in any form.
Roles of Virtual Reality in Construction Technology
Virtual Reality was predominantly used in the gaming and entertainment industry but is now being utilized by professionals in the construction. The benefits of VR in construction are unmatched by any other technology. Virtual Reality in Construction provides the ability to take a computer-generated 3-dimensional model for viewing, walking around, and interaction before or during construction.
The process takes place using headsets or a room set up specifically for the immersive capability of Virtual Reality, known as BIM Cave. With this, stakeholders can have a dynamic experience of building aesthetics and provide a spatial understanding of its form before the commencement of construction.
Remember I mentioned earlier that Virtual Reality makes use of the BIM room. The concept of VR is an extension of the BIM process and whilst we all know BIM can optimize the delivery of buildings by providing greater efficiencies at all stages of the building lifecycle, BIM does not encourage exploration of form, space, and aesthetics as VR can.
In case you are still wondering how Virtual Reality and VR work, then you should read this. Imagine taking the form of simulating a building, structure, or space and allowing users to immerse themselves into it even before it is constructed in reality. In essence, a structure will first of all be viewed and observed in VR mode before the construction workers start bringing it to life. It is as simple as that.
With this, designers and all other construction professionals can test their ideas, components, and features of the structure before committing them to construction. Most times, alterations on construction work can cost a fortune, but if VR is involved in the process, potential conflicts or problems will be identified before construction work begins.
In addition to this, Virtual Reality can be used to simulate workspaces to help provide training and health and safety guidance to workers. Mistakes are bound to occur, and if this is done in the real world, the consequences might be drastic. Virtual Reality provides the opportunity to explore and gain familiarity, while practicing in a simulated environment, to gain and improve knowledge and skills.
VR can also greatly benefit the client by being able to experience the project in a virtual realm, enabling them to review the design and decide whether it meets their requirements. Small details can be picked up that might be overlooked in a traditional computer-aided design (CAD) model or with building information modeling (BIM).
Furthermore, VR can play an important role at all stages of the design-to-construction process, from evaluating design options and showcasing proposals, to designing and mapping out errors and ironing out construction and serviceability issues before breaking ground on site. This helps save time, energy, and resources at the same time.
Even at the conceptual or fit-out stages, Virtual Reality can serve as an effective means to explore the relationships between spaces; the impact of light on a room at different times of the day or year, views from mezzanine floors, or the layout of furniture and furniture types, wall and floor coverings. With a physical scale model or BIM model on screen, you still have to imagine what it would be like to exist inside the space. With VR, you experience the proportion and scale.
It is one thing to model a building in a 3D CAD system but using VR to experience how it will feel and function can take design to a whole new level. Designers can exist inside their designs, encouraging bold new ideas and more interaction.
In deploying virtual reality, many companies look to start with a base system such as Enscape or 3DS Max in tandem with a headset such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. Often though, having experienced the power of the immersive technologies, Clients move to a BIM Cave to provide a joint immersive experience with Colleagues or Clients.
Features and Benefits of Virtual Reality in Construction Technology
- An Improved Client Experience, Awareness, and Interaction.
- It can be used by clients as a sales tool
- Virtual Reality allows construction workers to plan projects better even before commencing them.
- Also, Virtual Reality can help strengthen the relationship and collaboration between construction workers like Designers, Engineers, Contractors, and Subcontractors.
- It helps in reducing the risk associated with construction projects by seeing it before it happens.
- Reduction of RFI’s and Change requests.
- In addition, Virtual Reality can help see sources of potential conflicts earlier and resolve them on time.
- The technology is also used in training construction workers.
- Used in health and safety training of construction students, graduates, and workers.
- Virtual Reality can be used in marketing too.
- PR images, case studies, and internal promotion.
Conclusion: Roles of Virtual Reality in Construction Technology
You can experience a whole lot more with Virtual Reality in Construction Technology. The benefits of this technology are endless. This is why many construction training institutions are now introducing VR into their education curriculum. Soon enough, Virtual Reality knowledge will be used as a requirement to recruit construction workers. It is just a matter of time.