The time saving and coordination benefits of BIM are well known in the UK, hence the government’s heavy promotion of its use. Over the last 18th months we have invested a lot of effort along with our TSB research project (IVIC) partners Hyde Housing, WMG, and Holovis into optimising the outputs from our Building Information Models (BIM) and make it work harder as a design tool.
We have investigated how the automotive industry has been using visualisation techniques at design stage, be that through the use of large format power walls or immersive CAVE environments. One of our early successes was the adoption of LumenRT. This piece of software allowed us to quickly export fully rendered walkthroughs direct from the BIM model. The output is freely navigable, akin to a video game, and allows us interrogate design options from various vantage points. We frequently use real time rendered walk throughs during design sessions with our consultants, our large format wrap around screens enable us to virtually markup the model and share the results.
Dialogue with our clients has greatly benefited from navigable models. Sharing the model allows them to explore our designs in their own time, hence they arrive at meetings better informed. To the uninitiated in construction traditional forms of communication such as 2D plans and sections are often illegible, a 3D tour in “first person” mode makes the building instantly understandable.
Our latest experiment is one step further going to the level of full immersion with the use of a virtual reality headset (Oculus Rift SDK2). This is still a development piece of hardware, and as such is not as user friendly in terms of content creation as retail products. Having said that the results far outstrip any of the other visualisation products we use. The sense of immersion is all encompassing and you feel you have left your desk once you don the headset. You can explore every corner of your building taking in the grand sense of space within a 4 story atrium to a moment later bending over to examine a handrail connection detail.
We still have a lot of work to do to limit the nausea some users can experience and to better integrate it into our workflow but the end goal makes the effort worth it. Facebook also agree after they forked out $2billion for Oculus Rift earlier this year despite the product not yet being on the market! VR is on its way, it’s up to us in the construction industry to be creative with the ways in which we use this new tool to both design and sell our ideas.