4th November Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Since April, when the Level 2 mandate came into play, the industry has seen far more engagement towards Building Information Modelling (BIM). People are finally accepting BIM and seeing the potential benefits that the digital world can bring to construction. For a long time, construction was one of the least automated industries around, but thanks to the likes of BIM and virtual and augmented reality, we’re slowly but surely catching up.
The building site of the future is going to look very different to what we are all used to seeing today. Virtual reality (VR) is all about the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with. Building a construction project in a virtual environment means you can experience how the final building will function and appear, using technology to make changes to locations of partitions or walls, meaning factors can be tested without the time and cost of building the structure, reducing the number of problems that may occur in the process.

We’ve been using computerised 3D models of buildings for a while now, but now London based engineers, Elliott Wood are trialling a 360-degree visualisation cylinder igloo in its office. Contractors can feel what it’s like to be right in the middle of a site by wearing VR headsets, allowing them to see a full 360-degree view. Anyone wearing the same headset will also be able to see the same thing, allowing changes to be made straight away to designs anywhere around the world – something we would have never predicted only a couple of years ago.

Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand is the blending of virtual reality and real-life, as developers can create images within applications and users can interact with virtual contents in the real world. By overlaying virtual data and images on to a current physical space, potential flaws that may arise can be spotted early and workers can take measures to avoid them.
Using AR to showcase a building to potential investors in its proposed real-world location will help them understand how it will connect with its surroundings. It makes it easier for planners to work with contractors and can also reassure clients, making it easier for everyone to work together and ensure the project runs smoothly.

VR and AR are expected to have a major impact on the building sector over the next few years, with investments already being made for developing new technology. I know some people are apprehensive of change, we’re creatures of habit and for those that have worked in the industry for a long-time using new technology is a scary, but the likes of VR and AR are only going to help the industry in many ways – shorter project delivery times, safer construction sites and overall improved quality of projects? Yes, please!