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December 19, 2019

How AR and VR will Change Construction Forever

VRFor years, Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been transforming the way project teams view the work ahead of them. It has effectively become a gold standard in how pre-construction plans are devised, but even with the advancement it ushered in, large portions of project work are still being done on paper.

That may finally be changing with the arrival of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Even as some construction companies have pursued paperless document management, many parts of the industry still lagged their peers. However, with the potential game-changing solutions that VR, AR, and BIM can offer when combined into a single platform, the days of paper-based project management may finally be behind us.

To put it as simply as possible, AR provides users with an actual physical setting laden with computer-generated information through one lens, while VR is a simulation of an interactive 3-D environment. Another way of looking at it is that AR captures actual, real-world environments – like a jobsite – and overlays them with digital imagery and information. VR takes users into another world entirely, where a digital world replaces the real one.

Both forms of technology are poised to take a leading role in project management activities. Let’s review some of the forms this will take.

Improving Safety and Collaboration on the Jobsite

One area AR can impact the jobsite is in pre-construction stages. Technically, with BIM in the picture, the ability to “build” the project before a shovel hits the ground is already a tried and true tactic, but the inclusion of AR will make this model of project planning even stickier. Having the ability to understand exactly how the project will roll out, and any challenges that may arise, can offer a huge assist when managing client expectations.

AR can also be helpful when comparing measurements of built products against the projections in the computer-generated models. In other words, project team members can utilize a wearable AR unit that provides measurements which can be integrated into the 3-D models to double-check accuracy of the physical building components. This can help reduce wasted materials during the construction process, but it also can impact teams in the field: for instance, while wearing an AR headset, teams can make real-time changes to the building design and have those changes automatically registered in the digital models.

Of course, moments like those can often spark greater collaboration between teams. This is especially true when problem-solving, since AR and VR both allows owners to see the building before construction begins and identify any potential concerns. It also helps project teams devise solutions without having to wait for a project manager to physically see the space before providing an opinion. By seeing the building virtually from anywhere in real-time, these decisions can be made without having to physically be on-site, saving time and preventing potential owner aggravation.

Other areas that will benefit from AR/VR integration include jobsite safety and cost management. Safety can be enhanced by identifying potential jobsite dangers or risks in the building construction process before workers ever enter the jobsite, allowing for the design to be amended before workers are put at risk. In addition, safety training seminars can be offered from anywhere, enabling workers to stay up to date on certifications without having to physically visit a classroom. Cost-wise, AR/VR promises to reduce re-work and allow projects to be finished sooner thanks to enhanced communication and decision making that cuts down on costly delays – all because of gaps in communication that paper-based models can’t fix.

Enjoying the Benefits of AR and VR – Right Now

While AR and VR offer a glimpse into what the future of construction may look like, contractors needn’t worry just yet if they don’t have virtual reality headsets in every desk drawer and tool belt. The good news is the benefits these next-level applications promise exist today in the form of construction project management software and cloud-based collaboration tools. These solutions provide real-time updating capabilities to ensure project teams are always in sync.

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