Imagine…touring spaces from your office. Not watching a virtual tour, but actually walking through the space, at your own speed, looking at what you want, and seeing every detail. From the texture of the wallcovering to the lighting levels, you are truly in the space. Yes, this is possible with Virtual Reality (VR). More than 500 million VR headsets are expected to be sold by 2025 as the commercial real estate industry embraces this next big breakthrough.
VR in Project Management:
Virtual Reality allows users an immersive experience, one where they are actually a part of the environment. Project managers can view designs in real-life proportions, experiment with various scenarios without any real-world outcomes, view charts and monitor progress. Using interactive features, users can go through various nuances of design while providing feedback, identify issues before production and view various aspects of construction from the comfort of their offices. Leveraging cloud technology, data can be accessed from anywhere allowing engineers, designers, and managers to collaborate. Risks are reduced as designs can be confirmed before construction; imagine a project without any change orders because you did the final walk through before the first wall was erected.
How does it work?
Virtual Reality 360-degree videos, allow users to be interactive and view the site from all angles. It works more as a model of the entire project. Construction can be viewed stage by stage. The navigation facility in VR programs allow the user to view the interior, exterior and its surroundings. One can visualize the spatial relationship between surroundings, site plan and other project components. Further, construction materials storage and site circulation can also be visualized for evaluation and better decision making. GIS and Revit are two VR software applications particularly helpful in the process of scheduling for analysis and queuing. Other details such as roads, parking, walkways, drainage systems, sanitary sewer lines, water lines, landscaping and lighting can be modeled, viewed and analyzed through VR. Authorities can ensure that building codes and other land use regulations are being met, allowing owners to avoid costly re-work.
Not only that, once a design is created, Digital Twin Technology can be used to create a digital replica of the on-site progress. Through daily updates, off-site construction managers can view the real-time report virtually. Any issues/mismatches are identified before re-work is necessary. VR can also impact total project cost by as much as 5% on average through travel and time savings for project managers and other stakeholders alone!
Other applications of VR in construction:
- Surveillance : Drones are used to monitor plan vs actual construction, where when the actual construction is different from the plan, it can be prevented before it costs millions to reverse it. For eg. if a drone is used to view a real-time VR simulation – if a slab (concrete) is being placed in the wrong place than the plan, it can be prevented from being replaced on the misaligned foundation, thereby reducing rework in corrections.
- Safety: Smart badges when used by workers can prevent mishaps. Also, through indoor GPS, managers can view all the work and the workers in real time. Managers can also identify potential hazards in the workplace, and alert the workers of the same before any mishaps occur. The same goes for Daqri helmet which can identify and warn workers of temperature differences and dangerous situations.
- Labor costs: These are reduced as 3D VR models can be made of the area allowing for automatic calculations, earth that needs to be removed, and the hours that need to be put in for work. VR can also be used with intelligent machines which can work inside the trailer than cab.
- Timelines: Mangers in trailers, through VR, can view the changes occurring regularly as there exists real time update of 3D models while logistics can be simplified too. Clients, managers and contractors can all be on the same page by keeping track of the progress vis a vis the proposal. This will also encourage two-way communication and keep everyone on schedule.
While this technology is still slow on the uptake owing to the cost associated with it, the advantages are great and we expect to see strong adoption as the costs decrease.