Digital future of construction industry under the spotlight
22 November 2018 | Web Article Number:
THE potential of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the construction and consulting engineering space, as an important element of a fully-integrated approach to project delivery, was showcased at an event entitled ‘The Digital Future’ at Aecom’s Sandton office recently.
Globally, the infrastructure delivery company is a licensed user of major software providers such as Bentley and Autodesk. The addition of VR and AR is complementary to Aecom’s use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), in which multiple design teams produce integrated 3D models.
Now both the design teams and clients can ‘walk through’ VR scenes of an actual project, whether an industrial process plant such as a brewery or an automotive assembly plant, as well as commercial projects, said Craig Howie, Digital Project Delivery Lead, Buildings and Places.
“Our aim was to show it is not really all that complicated. We are all very excited about what technology is allowing us to achieve on our projects,” Howie said. The VR system adopted by Aecom uses industry-standard software. “We have been purposeful in the selection of our technology base, as we need to be able to work with different consultants seamlessly.”
An important element of this is that Aecom can visit a client and show a VR scene at their place of choice, as the technology is fully portable, whether for a client presentation or event for training purposes. Aecom now has both BIM and VR capability in its Durban, Cape Town, and Centurion offices. The key benefit for clients is a far more intuitive understanding of their projects than is possible by looking at a traditional 2D drawing.
“Until now, we have been using a 3D model displayed on a computer screen to boost our clients’ understanding of a project. VR takes this a natural step further, as it places you literally within the ‘as built’ project,” he said, adding that this 1:1 scale experience has the added benefit of speeding up the design-review process.
“What we have found is that, while some clients struggle to comprehend 2D drawings, VR empowers them to give more meaningful input.” This ranges from major multinationals, which have mandated BIM as a contractual obligation, to smaller local clients and projects.
Aecom now offers 3D models as a standard across all of its projects, even though this is not yet mandated in the local construction industry.
Commenting on the adoption of BIM and immersive technologies by the South African construction industry in general, Howie said that, while the digital revolution is being driven largely by the engineering, design, and consulting fraternity, Aecom is working closely with a number of construction companies that have expressed interest in such latest innovations.