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If the rapid advancement of virtual reality (VR) technology being used in the design and building process is any indication of what’s to come, it’s not a question of if, but when, there will be a large number of construction firms adopting some form of VR.

Why? Because it’s a technology that is an ideal fit for construction. It’s an extremely effective way of communicating to a client what an office or even an entire building will look like. For example, through generating an immersive 3-D model of an office space or hotel room, the client, architect, designer and any other stakeholder involved in the project can walk through a virtual jobsite before construction has ever even begun.

Making any types of changes after a building is under construction could lead to very costly rework. By using VR, clients can make changes at no cost. A recent study by ARC Document Solutions found that 65.3 percent of architectural, engineering and construction management professionals surveyed reported that using VR applications cut material and labor costs.

BIM for Construction

The financial benefits of using reality technology could be seen throughout numerous applications. One in particular, BIM, has been proven to save significant amounts of time and money, increase quality and client satisfaction rates. It’s no surprise that it’s becoming a favorite among construction firms. In fact, contractors are now adopting BIM at a faster rate than architects.

On one project, the Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland, Ore., a joint project of Oregon State University and Portland State University, BIM is credited with saving $10 million on a $295 million budget. The project had complex geometric designs, and using3-D models helped to communicate the way things fit together for the subcontractors. But it was the three-dimensional, all-digital documentation process used by the 28 different design teams that received credit for the savings.

Research has found that BIM adoption is rapidly rising, and contractors are on the leading edge of adoption. A McGraw-Hill Construction survey found for the first time that contractors were using BIM more than architects. Even though it’s the large firms undertaking complex projects that represent the biggest users, the results of leveraging BIM are generally considered valuable to any sized firm.

For example, Dodge Data & Analytics found that many were using construction modeling to boost efficiencies in both scheduling and logistics. Construction modeling uses the BIM design to help contractors improve project delivery.

Surveyed firms also reported getting the most value from the models by using them for work packaging and sequencing, site logistics and equipment logistics. Respondents also said emerging uses for construction models include locating crews, workforce planning, enforcing safety and handling temporary works.

Benefits of BIM

The benefits of using BIM could be seen across the board—from cost savings to increased productivity. Respondents said that overall they experienced a five percent reduction in final construction costs, a five percent increase in the speed of completion, a 25 percent improvement in labor productivity, and a 25 percent reduction in site labor because BIM made it feasible to use more off-site fabrication.

Construction companies are even creating partnerships that exploit BIM in new ways. Turner Construction Company used a predictive visual data analytics tool developed by a team from the University of Illinois to improve responses to performance issues at the Sacramento Kings Golden 1 Center construction site.

The pilot project goal was to use color-coded 3-D visual production models to easily inform project stakeholders about at-risk locations on a project site. The system helped managers sort problems by seriousness and then correct them more reliably and efficiently. The long-term impact was better project performance and greater connectedness among teams. Because the system called attention to problems grouped by their location in 3-D, it also streamlined weekly work planning.

Today, BIM is working at all levels of construction projects, and with all participants. Meanwhile, new BIM tools are simplifying how people interact with models. Other technologies like geographic information systems and augmented reality are working with BIM to open up whole new ways of imagining, viewing, constructing and managing the built world.


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