The construction of large infrastructures such as dams, bridges, tunnels, airports and so on often require a relatively efficient tool for visualization. Technically, visualization helps us as project stakeholders to get an overview of the infrastructure, create plans, make presentations to clients, detect errors and increase efficiency.
Unfortunately, visualization is still being done with the use of design plans, sketches, paper drawings and so on. this could lead to a lot of problems and conflicts among which are conflicts, oversight, poor visualization, safety problems and so on. the use of old techniques for project visualization can lead to many challenges.
Forward-thinking construction companies are fast changing their construction job sites with the use of the latest technologies in construction. The use of paper drawings, design plans and sketches are now being replaced by 3D models, and a new interactive tool known as Augmented reality (AR).
AR can be used to transform large infrastructural data into clear and simple visualizations which give a great insight into information that critical to a jobsite.
Due to its relative efficiency, AR is one of the most discussed modern technologies in construction.
The meaning of Augmented Reality (AR)
Nowadays, Architects and Project designers make use of Augmented Reality to create a realistic view of a new or existing building structure in its environment. Augmented reality is a tool that helps us to interact with our designs. Typically, this involves overlaying the newly designed object onto a real-world environment.
Through combination of physical and digital views, AR helps construction teams create more efficiency, accuracy and enhances the general confidence of these teams in their infrastructural projects.
The Way Augmented Reality works
While in the case of Virtual Reality, the experience is entirely digital. Augmented Reality uses a combination of digital and real images and puts them into a single interactive environment. The AR practically projects 3D images of a site or its surroundings as the project team walk through it with the use of mobile device or a special AR helmet.
With the use of cameras and its GPS technology, The AR unit provides real time data according to their relative spacing in real life, while updating and displaying all the relevant information of the infrastructure as the project team walks throughout the infrastructure. The technology instantly provides critical information of a project like schedules, details of operation, as well as the structural plans. With the availability of these information, the project tram members can automate their construction processes and be able to efficiently make fast decisions on site.
How Augmented Reality is used in construction
Due to its power to provide instant information, AR is currently being applied in the construction industry to increase team efficiency, improve the safety of personnel on site, streamline team collaboration, manage project costs and boost the confidence of the project team.
The five primary benefits of Augmented Reality
As professionals who engage in the construction of massive infrastructures, AR can be beneficial in numerous ways.
There are lots of advantages of applying the amazing benefits of AR in infrastructural projects. Using AR in our infrastructural projects enhances the way we plan our projects, automate our measurements on site, helps us easily modify our projects in real time, easily provides on-site information, streamlines project team collaboration as well as improves the way we train for safety. To better understand these advantages, let us look at the following scenarios:
1). Project designers have more flexibility in their designs
When 3D models are imported to the AR environment, architects and designers can quickly assess their project designs for achievability, practicality as well as the aesthetic project features in a more detailed manner. The usefulness of design components makes it easy for the client to get a richer design review experience. This way, any design changes can be made quickly, while several design alternatives and proposals are evaluated rapidly and with more details. AR tools such as Site Vision from Trimble allows an easy toggling between 2D and 3D views, adjust the image transparency for comparisons with real-world designs. Site Vision further enables the project clients to see the detailed and fully textured models by easily communicating the project details through a superior and interactive method of visualization.
2). Augmented Reality allows objects to be positioned accordingly on site.
Project models that are properly georeferenced could be manually or automatically positioned and adjusted with increased ease and accuracy relative to other modelling objects. This means that with the capability of AR, construction workers can easily understand where materials can be laid, where walls meet each other, and the locations of doors. When AR is properly utilized in infrastructure construction, utilities like bridge decks, piers, water pipes, HVAC ducts, electrical conduits, pressure pipes, and so on are easily located and adequately laid out in the design.
3). An enhanced visualization leads to a better project inspection
Technically, project inspection is enhanced because there is a visual comparison of the as-built object versus the as-designed image. As a result of this, design checklists can be presented in several perspectives and are filtered for a specific location. Any user with an AR-enabled device would be able to see hidden underground and overhead lines, and if he finds out any problems, he can drop AR pins at the point of the problem. Furthermore, he can also tag this location by adding comments or photos for corrective actions later.
4). AR can be used effectively for infrastructural maintenance.
AR easily brings in some enhancements to the operations and maintenance phases of the lifecycle of an infrastructure. The construction site workers are instantly fed relevant information for project models, manuals, or schematics for machinery, and so on. In the course of the maintenance work of any infrastructure the obstructions caused by existing structures and objects is avoided by the use of AR. This leads to an observed improvement in performance, compliance, and efficiency.
This way, there is an achievement of a higher simplicity of work in both building operations and maintenance.
AR allows the use of hands-free, which can be worn. The user can see building information without haven to hold drawings or flip through pages of the building manual.
5). AR offers tremendous benefits in infrastructure renovations
The location of hidden construction components in infrastructures such as beams, columns, slabs, structural core, conduits, ducts, and pipes are easily viewed with the use of special AR helmets or smartphones. This is important in the renovation of infrastructures. AR also helps the client to visualize proposed redesigns and then be able to spot out problems early on in the planning stage, thus making the renovation project a lot easier. The capabilities of AR technology also extend to taking quick photos and measurements. You can add instruction notes on models, create tasks, report on the statuses of projects, request for work clarifications, or you could just easily share or assign tasks with your project team members, all done in real time.
With the advantages provided by Augmented Reality, any leading construction firm can adopt the fresh technology to effectively create 3D virtual project tours for a more realistic visualization. AR can also be used simultaneously with leading building information modeling (BIM) software such as Sketchup, Tekla Structures, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk Revit and other tools. These tools which are mere 3D modelling tools gets enhanced by the addition of AR. AR helps with the effective transformation of ordinary 3D models into realistic images and objects.
Through the integration of this technology into Building information modeling, construction firms can quickly and accurately document important construction milestones and effectively communicate project progress to the stakeholders. This creates a high level of transparency across all the phases of the project.
Furthermore, the possibility of the integration of AR-based technologies with Building information modeling makes the landscape for the future adaptation of this technique bright. Applying the 3D virtual tour means that your corporate clients who do not want to get their clothes stained or their shoes dirty, can get a direct view and idea of the progress on-site, and be able to have a clear and factual representation of the site work, documented in a communicating format.
The application of the AR technology is the next big step that is needed for construction companies to be taken, and this should be readily accepted to achieve projects with high efficiency.
AR is a technology that keeps on evolving. As it continues to evolve, numerous applications and tools are still being developed to improve on it. Apps such as Smartreality enables construction users to create impressive 3D models of their projects off 2D plans. Similarly, apps such as Pair 3D enables architects and infrastructure designers drop components like furnishings, kitchen utilities, and so on into their designs to discover the visual impact of objects in the infrastructure. While incorrect project estimates have long plagued construction companies and make them to suffer huge losses, help may have been found by way of a Canadian start-up, called Sensopia. Sensopia is currently sponsoring the creation of an AR app which enables project estimators to accurately estimate the material costs of a project through models that had being designed. Additionally, they are also able to order for the materials through this same app. The app in question helps to streamline to the estimation of infrastructural materials as well as their delivery to site.
From preventing errors to providing deep insights, the use of Augmented Reality in construction can practically streamline the entire lifecycle of an infrastructure.
Forward-thinking companies that have invested in the technology have begun to reap the benefits of the new technology. While the technology begins to mature and become economically beneficial, there have been an increased adoption and investment.
Just like cranes, power tools, and forklifts, we can all expect to see more of this innovative technology on construction sites around us, as leading construction companies in the AEC industry plan to transform their project sites with Augmented Reality.