Who says VR performs best for gaming and entertainment? Risk-free training, reduced budget misuse, and fewer reworks – here are some of the many features Virtual Reality provides for the construction industry. Now, let’s dive deeper and learn more about it.
Table of contents
What VR in Construction Is
In general terms, VR is a custom simulated environment filled with 3D models. One can simulate almost everything: from an entire building to check the calculations to a new construction process to help colleagues implement it faster. It gives a more accurate and realistic view of the project to implement, which is especially useful for such a complex industry as construction.
Enhanced with advanced 3D modeling techniques, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and laser scanning, VR construction opens up new opportunities to create, manage, and modify field-specific asset data even in real time.
Benefits of VR in Construction
VR is used in construction less often than it should be, and for this reason, its potential advantages here may not be seen. Let’s examine several points and find out why exactly virtual reality is a top-tier choice for the building industry.
It’s no secret every construction project is unique and requires its own approach. That is why it is often complicated to map out the working processes ahead of time: new features and requests may appear anytime.
Virtual reality helps overcome the challenges by providing additional scalability and flexibility of the processes. Physical mini models used before could display the project’s general image, but they were hard to modify and scale in case of changes. Moreover, all employees had to travel to the office and see the model with their own eyes. It was quite a waste of time.
VR solves those issues, too. It displays the entire project on a full scale compared to the tiny models, but it also supports swift changes. It means that rather than add new features physically to the mockup, VR allows for quick and cheap updates with no risk of destroying anything. On top of that, virtual models are easy to share, which means no necessity to travel anywhere to examine the new details together.
It’s way better to see the project site in real life than try to get the most out of blueprints. Visual clarity makes it easier for teams to understand the work scope, spread load correctly, and collaborate more efficiently.
That is the thing VR environment provides: visualization of the future project. This benefit is incredibly rewarding for complicated or remote projects, where teams may experience communication issues or when construction site conditions may be challenging for visits.
For example, VR construction helps stakeholders and supervisors understand the project needs in the initial stages, where the cost of a mistake is low. It also lets a remote working team understand new features stakeholders wish to implement and view the construction progress.
The construction industry has always been an area of high risk, even for experienced specialists, not to mention interns. Still, there’s always a need for training.
For this reason, VR-based training gets more and more attention from construction companies. It provides more efficient and safe educational processes compared to real-life situations. Here’s an example. A simple forklift caused over 74 deaths and 9,050 non-fatal injuries in 2017 in the USA only, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The main reason for it was the lack of training.
It is only a segment of all the injuries in the construction sphere; other sides may unveil yet higher fatality rates. Virtual reality can help reduce them and improve the overall level of training at the same time.
Reduction in Rework and Labor Costs
Unfortunately, miscalculations are a common thing in construction. Few specialists can estimate the project correctly based on blueprints and schemes solely. The possibility to preview the future result would be quite valuable here. Luckily, it is the thing VR provides.
Simulations with close-to-real calculations help see how the end-solution will look and expose fallacies in the initial stage. As a result, most of the reworks could be avoided as soon as the project rises to view. On top of that, various technologies and processes, such as BIM, help construction persons simulate environmental impacts, leading to additional budget spending.
Typical Use Cases
In general, VR is used for almost all fields of construction. Let’s name a few for the sake of clarity.
VR’s main point is that it can showcase the finished building even before the groundwork is ready. There’s no better way to view the project in full detail than a precise recreation in the close-to-reality environment. It helps the team examine how the project will work out and solve possible bottlenecks.
It should be added that architectural visualization is the most common case of VR in the construction industry.
VR construction tours are used mostly for stakeholders and buyers, as it is a very efficient tool to give a firsthand view of the soon-to-be house. For stakeholders, these tours let them see the result well in advance and introduce changes early. For buyers, it means deeper emotional engagement and higher purchase chance.
A lot of construction and design companies apply VR tours to improve their marketing strategies. For example, Woodhouse uses it to provide the clients with a vision of their possible office designs. It allows architects to develop a detailed plan beforehand and reduces the risk of a “That’s not what I wanted” situation.
Learning and Training
As was mentioned before, virtual reality provides risk-free training in the sphere where safety is in question. VR can recreate even the most complicated situations which require specific equipment, such as tower crane training, with the help of custom-made simulators.
For example, CertifyMe.net, a forklift certification agency, applies its custom VR environment for training and performance review. It is easy, safe, and efficient. On top of that, it reduces the risk of an industrial injury, which is a key benefit.
Remote Site Visits
Sometimes, stakeholders are located far from the building site, but they still have to orchestrate the process. Instead of time-consuming site visits in real life, VR allows management to view the building area from anywhere. It only requires frequent updates to introduce new features to the project.
Cost of VR Solutions
One of the most common concerns regarding VR implementation is the cost. Many people believe it is expensive and time-consuming, which is not valid in reality. According to our experience, an average project price varies from $25,000 to $60,000. Of course, a large custom simulator with many animations, cases, and reality-based graphics may cost up to $200,000, but it’s a rare event. Most often, VR development costs less.
You can also cut corners on devices and create a VR solution run on smartphones or PCs. Take Google Maps as an example. It is a full-fledged virtual tour you can open on your PC or phone anytime. It all depends on the size and aims of your project.
The Future of VR in Construction
One thing is clear: VR is going to evolve. It gives an array of superior features already, such as high-quality image, seamless experience, and deep immersion. VR development becomes yet more popular service.
On top of that, VR allows stakeholders to consider the buyers’ requests in the early project stages and create more commercially-viable buildings more safely. A growing number of companies understand that, so it may be that VR will transform into a must-have from just an advantage in the short run.