New construction technology is rapidly shifting the way construction is done, from apps on mobile devices to laser scanning and drone photogrammetry. Few construction sites have fully escaped the onward march of technology, but many companies have really embraced it, and are reaping substantial rewards.
Virtual Reality (VR) is one new technology that is changing the construction industry by solving old problems. Virtual reality in construction is the next level in 3D modeling. Like 3D modeling, it involves a detailed virtual model of the project. Unlike 3D modeling, it places the user directly inside the virtual environment, so that the user experiences a full immersion into the virtual space.
Here are three examples of how the new age of VR technology is solving old problems.
1. Scale Up Quickly
3D modeling software makes it possible to create detailed models and share those models across teams
Because every building is different and every site is unique, construction has never been an easily scaled industry. VR changes that by making it easy to share across teams and get new teams quickly up to date on relevant issues.
Creating a 3D model of a construction site used to be a complex physical process that required space, time, and materials. These miniature models were helpful in orienting the project, but by necessity contained inaccuracies and lacked detail.
3D modeling software changed the game by making it possible not only to create a detailed, accurate model more quickly and cheaply, but also by making it possible to share those models across teams. VR takes it to a new level by making it possible for people to immerse themselves in the project as though they were actually there, and interact with the environment exactly as though engaged in a walk-through.
Armed with these technologies, teams on opposite sides of the country can “walk through” a site together and examine its details in real time together.
Furthermore, lessons learned from walkthroughs can be applied across construction management teams and across projects to continually improve processes and create consistency and scale.
2. Streamline Collaboration
VR gives teams the ability to “see” a project site without traveling to it. This makes it easy for teams to collaborate in real time, within a shared environment, where they can literally point out details and issues, ask questions, and immediately make decisions about changes.
This improves timelines by facilitating feedback. It also reduces rework, by improving accuracy and the detail level of communications.
The benefits of VR for collaboration are especially relevant when building in difficult or remote sites, where teams may be communicating across substantial distances and site conditions make visits challenging.
For example, nonprofit organization Build Change constructs buildings all over the world including in developing countries and disaster-prone areas. They use VR to help onsite stakeholders understand the project needs during the planning phase, and they also use it to ensure remote teams can view progress and provide input throughout the construction phase.
Build Change also uses VR to maintain open lines of communication with stakeholders all over the world before, during, and after construction, as well as to raise awareness for their work in the communities they serve.
With the help of virtual reality, you can take a “walk” through Eklephant village in Nepal. Most of the houses in Eklephant were damaged or destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes. Retrofitting is a viable option for many of the damaged buildings, and homeowners are working with Build Change to strengthen their houses
3. Improve Customer Experience
Clients can now walk into a VR model and see for themselves what their project will look like when it’s complete
Lack of transparency has been a common frustration for building owners and other stakeholders during the construction process. It used to be that they simply had to trust that the construction company was doing their job right, and hope that an occasional site visit would clear up any problems.
Today’s customer experience can be completely different. Instead of paper drawings and plans, clients can walk into a VR model and see for themselves what their project will look like when it’s complete. This empowers clients to make smart decisions, and improves the contractor’s ability to set and meet expectations.
Throughout the construction process, updated 3D models in a VR environment allow customers to watch the project unfold, and see for themselves that everything is on track and progressing as planned. When issues and questions do arise, customers can address them right away in a collaborative VR environment, reducing friction and increasing speed.
Another way that VR improves customer experience is by providing new ways for commercial property owners to market their space long before construction is complete. A VR experience can show prospective tenants what it will look and feel like to be in the space, including views, lighting, layout, and furnishings. This increases the speed to revenue for commercial projects.
By improving scalability, streamlining collaboration, and upgrading the customer experience, VR helps construction companies tackle old and new problems to create a more profitable and satisfying construction experience.
To experience it yourself, take a VR tour with Build Change, to see how they’re using technologies to improve construction resilience in disaster prone areas.