A few years ago, BIM was the next big technological development that would help construction and make the process more efficient. Supporters of BIM technology weren’t wrong, as this software has consistently shown its ability to improve accuracy on projects, saving companies essential time and money in the process.
Bud LaRosa, chief business performance officer and chief financial officer for Tocci Buildings recently commented on how Building Information Modelling software “used to be a nice thing to have, but now it’s a necessity” and the increased investment into this technology from design, architecture and construction sectors will only continue.
The global BIM market is expected to reach US$11.5billion by the end of 2022, which is a 20% growth in just seven years. Unsurprisingly, the biggest contributors to the BIM market were architects, followed closely by engineers. BIM software has been effective at streamlining the design to build process, but there’s a new technological development on the block- augmented reality.
What is Augmented Reality?
It sounds like something from your favourite Sci-fi film, but this technology is already making waves on construction projects across the world. Wearing special goggles, this technology enables detailed plans to be transposed onto the site so that everyone on the project can visualise exactly what the finished structure will look like.
Being able to ‘see’ the finished structure before it’s built enables construction workers to understand how everything will fit together and see the impact of their specific contribution to the project.
The ability to ‘see’ the structure before it’s created also reveals any flaws in the design before building starts. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to resolve any design issues at this stage rather than once construction has begun and deadlines have to be pushed back.
Augmented reality will reduce the chance of error at earlier stages of construction. At the moment, 3D designs are translated onto a 2D document before being built and every time the design is changed there’s a risk of a mistake happening and being carried through to the final structure.
Instead of translating these designs, the Augmented Reality technology transposes the building model design directly onto the building site surrounding them, improving accuracy and efficiency.
Already an impressive piece of technology, this software will be developed further to allow workers to see the information on parts, warnings and assembly instructions on the Augmented Reality interface. What’s more, 65.3% of construction workers believe that Virtual Reality is going to play a big role in the future of design and construction and be commonplace within the next decade.
How Augmented Reality is already in use
Augmented Reality might seem like a gimmick but it’s already proving its worth on construction projects in Africa, Australia, America and even the UK. Clients now have the ability to ‘walk through’ their new building before the foundation has been laid, ensuring that the existing plan meets with their expectations, saving time and money in the long run.
Students or apprentices can ‘visit’ a building and spot potential flaws or issues with the design and learn how to spot these in a neutral environment. This makes it simpler to have more hands-on classes in the educational environment.
Augmented Reality can become Virtual Reality as training staff use this technology to simulate accidents on site, whether that’s a collapsed wall, flooding or even electrocution. The reality of this situation is so powerful that it not only warns workers of the potential hazards but also gives them a real insight into how they should react if this occurred on a real site.
Installation and Excavation
With Augmented Reality you can see the pipes and wires behind a wall that you wouldn’t be able to see ordinarily, which makes sure that nothing’s damaged when additional work is going on. The same principle applies to excavation work, workers are less at risk of falling down an unseen hole or damaging themselves because they can’t ‘see’ beyond the surface.
In this way, Augmented Reality should significantly improve both the safety on site when construction is underway and the depth of training that workers in this field can receive before they go out into industry.
The next level
Recently, when a hospital was being built in LA, the architects invited doctors and nurses to come around with Augmented Reality headsets to make sure that where the plug sockets were planned to go and the bed setup was an efficient layout for the needs of patients to be met.
Augmented Reality technology is still being developed, but its potential to improve accuracy, safety and efficiency on site is almost limitless at this point.