The building industry is a trillion dollar global market, which has typically comprised fragmented workflows and a general aversion to tech-based disruption. While some of these hurdles have been crossed in recent years – within the design niche, this specifically entails the use of BIM data and increasingly sophisticated 3D visualization tools – there are still avenues unexplored that stand to dramatically transform the way we build.
Necessity is the mother of invention – and of innovation. As we face a global pandemic, new solutions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe are emerging in order to practise social distancing while also keeping business running as usual. One of these solutions – that offers immense promise – is Immersive Technology, especially within the building industry. As quick and effective communication and streamlined collaboration become the need of the hour, Immersive Technology is giving people the opportunity to work remotely without a hitch. One of the key offerings of this technology is its ability to ensure Virtual Co-location of teams: at a time when we can no longer meet in person to ensure transmission of key messages, Immersive Tech makes it possible to transfer our carefully calibrated work cultures into the virtual world, and remain efficient.
These offerings are not pertinent only to the lockdown period: Up to two-thirds of all projects in the building industry suffer from time and cost overruns due to communication gaps. This also includes the frequent pain point of all designers and architects – the gap between what the client approves on paper, and what they actually want from the end-product. A simple reason for this gap is the client’s inability to perceive space from the 2D media of drawings and renderings – and as such frequent iterations to match expectations become an unavoidable toll on project resources.
It is here that Immersive Tech can help – by making the switch from an individual’s visualization of data, to a uniform interpretation for all stakeholders. In an Immersive Environment, all project stakeholders can ‘walk’ inside the project before it is built, and perceive the space uniformly. By ensuring that everyone has the same depth of understanding of project data, we can facilitate reduced errors, faster and better decision-making, and ultimately greater business impact and profitability.
At present, Immersive Tech comprises AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). Of these, AR still has some way to go before mass adoption, while VR is closer to being used on a day-to-day basis in design and construction. From paper drawings to computer drafting to 3D modelling, the next avenue is naturally that of total immersion. Promising new integrations within this domain – such as the availability of exhaustive libraries of virtual twins of real catalogue products, and BIM data compatibility – will only make this technology more viable, lockdown or not. In fact, in this period of crucial social distancing and self-isolation, where physical mock-ups and on-site prototyping are no longer viable, such online libraries are already adding a layer of accuracy to design projects without the added cost of shipping materials and iteratively fine-tuning specifications over extended periods of time.
In this challenging time, embracing new technology is key to working with our teams without interruptions. The slimmest of silver linings in this grave situation is that it appears likely that the long overdue disruption of the building industry will be triggered by this global crisis, as the quest for effective ways of remote working become crucial to our wellbeing, as well as that of our community as we strive to stay productive even as we stay safe.