Augmented and Virtual Reality in Construction and Architecture:
Saving Money and Saving Lives
In recent years, construtech has had the wind in its sails. The use of technology in real estate is essential to build the smart cities that enable a better life for all. Here are examples that reveal how firms are counting on augmented and virtual reality in construction and architecture.
Virtual Reality in Construction: Visualizing Designs
Visualizing projects before beginning construction is essential. Firms can waste a substantial amount of time and resources if errors occur during construction due to improper planning. Even if mistakes aren’t made, a project that wasn’t visualized thoroughly may result in a finished product that doesn’t match what was in mind. That’s why AECs (Architects, Engineers, and Contractors) plan their work carefully.
AR/VR construction and architecture solutions have made planning, as well as coordination, easier than ever. With AR/VR, architects can immerse themselves in dynamic visualizations of their projects and collaborate with partners and clients. For example, it’s much easier for a client to approve a design if they see true-to-life dimensions. A blueprint or computer model can’t project interiors in lifelike proportions.
Exploring visualizations of the finished product also helps architects themselves refine their plans. Getting a sense of how a space will feel once it’s constructed may change an architect’s initial measurements if a room seems much bigger or smaller than expected.
Augmented Reality to Communicate Architectural Plans
Sometimes, the degree of immersion provided by VR isn’t necessary. AR architecture solutions are sufficient when quickly explaining a concept or idea.
With AR, it’s possible to depict what a finished building will look like by superimposing images unto a workbench. The resulting image is similar to a holograph that can be viewed from multiple angles when users walk around the workbench. AR can thus provide a high-level view of a city plan or floorplan. Also, by wearing transparent AR glasses, architects can see the digital image as well as their coworkers. AR facilitates human communication in ways that VR cannot (as VR completely blocks out reality).
If architects don’t want to wear AR glasses, it’s also possible to scan paper blueprints through a smartphone or tablet. Users will see a rotatable 3D visualization of the building on the phone/tablet screen, which turns the blueprint “alive”. AR architecture software makes it possible for architects to translate their designs in ways that AutoCAD and BIM cannot.
Virtual Reality in Construction: Improving Training and Boosting Safety
Virtual reality in construction not only enhances the design process, but also the training for workers. Well-trained workers perform their tasks more efficiently and reduce their susceptibility to workplace accidents.
Training construction workers is demanding since it isn’t limited to sitting at a desk and typing on a computer. It requires a hands-on approach in which workers perform tasks multiple times in real-world settings in order to commit these tasks to memory. While on-site training is critical, it’s also very time-consuming and resource-intensive.
Recently, companies and organizations such as 3M and the American Society of Safety Professionals have developed VR modules and apps which simulate construction tasks in virtual environments. These programs immerse users in scenarios they may encounter at job sites, such as falling from tall heights (which accounts for approximately 40% of construction deaths). The goal is to improve safety by training workers to react appropriately to a variety of situations.
The necessity of these tools can’t be overstated. According to OSHA, one in five occupational deaths in the U.S. private sector in 2017 came from the construction industry. The value of augmented and virtual reality in construction training comes from reducing the risks of injury and death. Construction firms can train anywhere, making it much more scalable and affordable to teach employees thoroughly.
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