Virtual reality is quickly creeping into almost every industry, beyond entertainment, from healthcare treatments to automotive manufacturing, its certainly dominating the world. The use of VR in construction has allowed companies to generate 3D imagery and explore structures before even breaking ground.
Virtual reality has offered businesses in the construction the opportunity to preempt the impact of their next project on the environment as well as make changes more effectively before the hardware moves into position. It can allow quantity surveyors to produce more accurate plans and account for resource overall more effectively, which in turn can result in a more economical and environmentally friendly project.
VR and 3D modelling
Within construction, there are multiple uses for VR technology, and with the application being relatively accessible, due to originally being developed for the gaming industry, more and more construction businesses are finding a use for it.
Professionals within the architecture and engineering sector are using it to build and view their BIM models more accurately. The capability to view how the structure should be, once construction coupled with the ability to compare the physical work to a 3D model ensures a better upholding of consistency and allows discrepancies to be more quickly spotted.
Using VR for 3D modelling can truly take construction capabilities to new levels, offering designers the chance to work with lifelike structures, rather than old-fashion scaled mock-ups and models. In tangent with other technology such as drones, used to survey the project site, representations and plans of the building can be more accurately produced than ever before.
VR mapping has allowed designers and architects to achieve a previously unfounded accuracy which has previously been impossible to achieve on a physical model. These applications ingest and visualised the data sets collected from the site. This allows the synthesis of geospatially accurate maps to be created, to be used by contractors to design, build and renovate.
The realisation of a project needs to be collaborative, and VR increases the capability for active participation, both from contractors but also the clients. The ability to give the client a VR headset to explore the proposed layout and structure allows contractors to get feedback from the client and take their input on the details to ensure that the rooms and space will work best for the desired use.
Using VR can bring the vision of a client to life effectively and allows them to express their ideas more accurately during the pre-planning stage. The ability to interact with the design through VR can also reduce the likelihood of unwelcome surprise with changes more easily made at this concept stage.
Customer experience is an important area for contractors, with VR bringing the capability to offer a more positive experience to their clients. Developers are now able to sell plots of land and buildings better before they’re built without the need for a model home to be created. It also allows customers to see exactly how their property will look, compared to a model home which is simply an example.
‘Try before you buy’ was previously almost impossible in the construction industry. Now, developers can bridge the gap between 2D plans and mock-ups and the final building using VR, allowing buyers to walk around the final product, choose the colours and decore and visualise how the furniture will fit into the available space.
Training and development
VR is already being used to train pilots using flight simulations and surgeons through virtual medical procedures. The technology hasn’t yet been implemented widely across the construction industry for training. However, the capabilities of simulation training could bring numerous benefits to the sector.
The economic benefits of VR are that, compared to classroom learning, it is highly affordable and accessible, compared to purchasing or renting ‘real’ equipment. VR is significantly safer than training on a site or in real life scenarios, particularly for those who work at height. For students, VR is a great opportunity to train on a virtual site, building confidence in working in the area and is a safe way to prepare them for the real thing.