How Virtual Reality is Revolutionizing Design

Virtual and augmented reality are dramatically changing and enhancing architectural and construction practices.

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!

Construction Industry Slow to Adopt New Technologies

According to a new report, construction firms are missing the boat in failing to adopt new technologies. Photo Credit: Construction Dive

According to consulting firm KPMG’s Global Construction Survey, the vast majority of construction industry companies are failing to adopt new technologies now available to improve workflow management and building performance monitoring – including advanced data and analytics, automation and robotics. While project-related risks seem to be increasing, only a small percentage of construction and engineering firms are re-thinking their business models to take advantage of new technologies that could mitigate these uncertainties.

Research indicates that even though the construction industry is well-positioned for technological disruption, most firms don’t want to be first-adopters, even though there is an opportunity to use high-tech innovation to streamline work flows, improve data collection, integrate project management information systems, and gain competitive advantage by using whiz-bang devices such as smart sensors and drones. Cost and scale, perceived as risk in relation to benefits, seem to be hindering investments in the new-new things.

With so few firms adopting tech innovations (only 8% fall into the “cutting edge visionary” category according to the KMPG survey) it would seem there is tremendous opportunity for a few fearless leaders to gain market share and improve the bottom line by embracing the new tech-savvy innovations.