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New virtual design and construction (VDC) technologies are quickly shifting how the AEC industry is designing, documenting and building. From the use of new software, apps and laser scanners, to the deployment of drones and robots, many early adopters are benefitting from fully integrating these solutions into their workflows.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

In an industry where collaboration is becoming increasingly important, regardless of the firm size, VR is enabling stakeholders to “see” and “walk” through a building before ground is broken. In other words, teams can foresee issues, ask questions and provide feedback in the preconstruction phase. 

The inclusion of AR and VR in the daily workflows of AEC firms signifies expedited decision-making, reduced rework and real-time collaboration, which in turn translates to a reduction of unexpected costs.

The construction industry has also benefited from the use of VR and AR to improve jobsite safety. Put simply: The jobsite safety training required by OSHA is not enough to reduce risks and prepare workers for unexpected situations and hazards. 

No matter how well-intentioned workers are, if they don’t know how to foresee possible safety threats or react in a crisis, injuries and fatalities can still occur. 

Now imagine a construction worker being able to immerse himself in a simulated construction site environment and train on real-life situations before work has even begun. VR allows companies to train their workers on very dangerous scenarios without any of the associated risks. 

According to a study published in Construction Management and Economics in 2013, VR also has been effective in maintaining workers’ overall alertness throughout the duration of the training, as well as promoting a more engaging and well-rounded training experience. 

Overall, safety trainings that include VR components in their curriculum lead to a better trained and prepared workforce and safer jobsites—leading to fewer work-related injuries and fatalities, lower insurance premiums and greater onsite productivity.

Drones

Another technology that has made inroads in the construction industry is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Companies can use drones to keep a wide eye on construction sites through the use of cameras, and to perform tasks or inspections in dangerous or hard-to-reach areas. Imagery from drones can be used by inspectors to do virtual inspections, and even allow clients and other stakeholders to do remote walkthroughs of construction sites without any safety risks.

4D and 5D BIM

Now more than ever, projects are increasing profitability through the use of 4D and 5D BIM. 4D scheduling, which adds time to a typical 3D BIM model, allows designers, engineers, contractors and other stakeholders to visualize how activities on a construction schedule relate to the overall design of the buildings. 

Being able to visualize the construction process, step by step, well in advance can allow the construction team to resolve overlaps and modify and optimize the schedule before breaking ground. The early delivery of bad news can be useful and help avoid problems later in the field. 

Similarly, 5D BIM, which includes cost as the fifth dimension, allows teams to visualize the impact that design and schedule have on the cost of construction. 

3D Scanning

Innovations in 3D scanning technologies also have allowed AEC firms to save time and money. 

The latest scanning methods use millions of lasers to capture a highly accurate 3D model of a space. 

This technology can have several uses during preconstruction, construction and even post-construction; it allows firms to scan existing conditions of a building undergoing restoration, compare as-built conditions to the design intent and document real-time construction progress to compare to a predicted 4D schedule. The possibilities are endless.

In the age of technology, improving profitability and jobsite safety are within reach to any company open to including innovative solutions in their workflows. Once AR, VR, UAVs, and 4D and 5D scheduling are more widely adopted by AEC firms, collaboration and productivity will increase, costs will decrease and jobsite safety will improve. 

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