Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may have originated in the video game studio but these technologies are now taking the AEC industry by storm presenting huge new opportunities to improve design-phase outcomes by leveraging real time data to make more informed decisions. The result? Safer projects with higher quality and significant cost savings.

VR and AR are redefining traditional design/build processes by enabling greater collaboration and eliminating costs across the construction lifecycle. They offer far more design and construction planning flexibility; changes can be made quickly and augmented reality can provide safety, training and real-time installation guidance to jobsite crews.

In what is truly a revolutionary democratization of the design process, VR and AR allow non-design professionals and stakeholders to conceptualize and provide critical feedback on a project, without having to understand or translate 2-D blueprints or static renderings. This “immersive review” as it’s being called is evolving as a new benchmark in the design process. California software developer Autodesk has leveraged their gaming VR expertise to develop VR applications for the AEC industry and report that designers think it’s the “best tool” they’ve used in decades. It’s a whole new way to visualize design and construction.

Minneapolis-based firm Mortenson has created an entire reality-capture division numbering 60 people. This “Integrated Delivery Advancement Team” delivers directly applied uses of virtual design and construction systems, tools and processes. They claim their virtual project review translates into real world savings. Mortenson’s use of VR for the Penn State Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania resulted in $475,000 in direct savings. An even bigger VR coup for the firm was $1.7 million in lower costs at the Atlanta Braves SunTrust Park.

The reality today? It’s virtual and it’s augmented and the construction and design world will never be the same. Game on!

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