Once limited to the video game industry, Virtual Reality (VR) is quickly making its way into design and construction. Aiming to create an interactive environment, VR allows users to experience life in an unparalleled and previously unimagined way.
As VR products expand in number and capability, the Virtual Construction team at Hourigan is integrating this high-tech tool into day-to-day activity and continuing to explore its potential. VR brings value to many aspects of the construction industry, several of which are listed below.
In the early stages of design, this technology enables the client to virtually walk-through their spaces ensuring that the visions of both client and designer align. As the project continues, VR reviews of the design can provide early warning signs of potential conflicts or desired changes that can then be addressed with the client.
The immersive environment created by using VR allows all team members to better understand specific complexities of the project in regards to constructability and logistics. By visually indicating conflicts, resolutions can be found more efficiently and collaboration can increase across the entire project. Involving the client’s facilities management team in the VR process allows them to confirm that equipment configurations and expectations for critical spaces are correct.
During construction, virtual models generated by the subcontractor are used in tandem with the architectural design model to provide new ways to avoid field coordination issues. Instead of using screenshots to explain potential red-flags, project team members will be able to virtually walk through the space and experience any issues first-hand. Providing a clear 360-degree image of the facility will make identifying issues earlier easier and allow expedited reworking if necessary. In Hourigan’s case, VR was used to show a 360-degree view of the lab spaces inside the Greer Environmental Sciences Center on the Virginia Wesleyan University campus. The success of the Greer project exemplifies how VR technology has significantly assisted in the layout and coordination of the build, specifically in the laboratory fume hoods and associated mechanical and electrical connections.
In the coming year, shifting to a Virtual Reality environment has the potential to significantly change the processes behind design, review and construction. Technical improvements and expanded usage will set the stage for the future of Virtual Reality in our industry. However, one thing is for sure – this form of technology has limitless possibilities if appropriately utilized.
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