By {{Article.AuthorName}} | {{Article.PublicationDate.slice(6, -2) | date:'EEEE, MMMM d, y'}}
{{TotalFavorites}} Favorite{{TotalFavorites>1? 's' : ''}}

Virtual realty provides an unparalleled spatial sense for visualization at a lower cost than full-scale replicas. Today, VR is being used heavily in preconstruction to align owner expectations and educate design team stakeholders. For those already employing BIM solutions, coordination can be made much more effective by leveraging existing design models with very little added cost.

As anyone who has tried a VR headset before can attest, the ability to accurately perceive spatial relationships in design cannot be replicated through traditional 2D media such as screens or paper. VR solutions also have the ability to iterate rapidly. These technologies are linked to BIM, providing real-time feedback as the design changes. This is in stark contrast to traditional full-scale mockups and offline renders, which are cumbersome and time-consuming to update with design changes. 

Substantial benefits without a hefty price tag

Budget limitations and ROI are always a concern with emerging technology. Fortunately, VR comes cheaply with BIM production. These solutions are significantly less expensive than full-scale mockups and far more efficient when compared to longhand sequencing explanations and esoteric detailing of complex designs. Even the most elaborate VR setups are a fraction of overall construction cost, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on the level of adoption.

Design and coordination models are widely available in construction today and facilitate VR use with little additional effort. The immersive aspect and spatial recognition are intuitive and efficient compared to 2D plans. Even 3D models viewed through design software is not full scale and is fragmented to produce traditional construction documentation.

Augmented reality can also aid with the sequencing of elements from a Gantt chart. Using Navisworks or similar software, schedule information can be imported and linked to geometry. The 3D elements are then automatically animated and updated with changes to the model and schedule. Additionally, VR allows us to see how these components come together in a scaled environment and reveal conflicts that may be otherwise hidden. This is particularly useful for construction with tight clearances due to existing infrastructure. 

Without a complete design model, VR can be expensive and time-consuming to maintain with design changes. For BIM projects, however, it’s a solid investment with many rewards. VR is another tool in the belt of designers and contractors to ensure construction adherence to design intent. 

Getting started with VR technologies

For a company using VR for the first time, a curated experience is recommended. Small flaws in the design can easily become focal points in VR and it’s important to ensure user focus remains on priority items. This can be done through limiting user interaction with the model and ensuring viewable areas are more polished.

For example, a more curated experience can be accomplished by exporting specific areas individually from the model to present as separate scenes. Another option is to create boundaries with hidden geometry to limit movement to a particular area, ensuring users only see polished parts of the model and aren’t overwhelmed by accidentally veering off to unfinished or non-navigable areas.

To achieve the ROI that VR solutions are capable of delivering, accurate models are of paramount importance. Models lacking consistency and accuracy will contain distracting errors and detract from the focal points and design elements intended for discussion. Excess modeling should also be avoided as it can significantly impact performance in VR and create additional cleanup. 

Looking Ahead

From the design team to the contractors and owners, VR improves understanding and expectation of deliverables across the board, greatly enhancing both project coordination and the review process. Managerial roles that, in the past, had been technology-averse now use VR for its intuitive view of the design BIM and investigating model elements in ways they would previously have avoided.

Visualizing the spatial relationship between model elements is where VR really shines. Steve Jobs famously said that computers are like a bicycle for the mind. VR is very much a bicycle for our spatial cognition. High ROI on BIM projects, combined with hardware that is growing less expensive and more powerful each year, makes one thing very clear—VR is here to stay.


 Comments ({{Comments.length}})

  • {{comment.Name}}


    {{comment.DateCreated.slice(6, -2) | date: 'MMM d, y h:mm:ss a'}}

Leave a comment

Required! Not valid email!