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Augmented reality - the future for construction?

by Kyle Molyneux  |  Thu 30 Jul 2020

Augmented reality - the future for construction?

There will be 3.5 billion augmented reality (AR) users by the year 2022, according to Digi-Capital. Construction is one of the many industries adopting this immersive technology, which is now changing the way that companies design, model and build. AR is blurring the line between the physical site and virtual design.

With AR-enabled devices at their disposal, site managers can project 3D constructs over existing landscapes and design their projects with more accuracy than ever before. AR provides the ability to conceptualist in-field design that impacts from the planning stages through to the completion phase of a project. Ian Barnes, Head of Business at SITECH, UK & Ireland distributor of Trimble technology, recently described three ways in which AR is shaping construction projects.

Planning: The role of AR in construction begins with the initial planning stages. Whether you’re working on a small commercial design or a large infrastructure scheme, AR can display the project’s impact on the surrounding landscape and provide an accurate view of layers and other installations. With AR technology, designers can plot complex designs and geometries using building information software (BIM) to generate detailed 3D models. For instance, Crossrail began life as a digital 3D model and contractors could access this information to help them with their work. This was particularly useful in the early building stages, once the designs had been finalised.  

The recently launched Trimble SiteVision enables users to view detailed 3D visualisations of their designs to spot any problems or safety hazards that could occur early on and use this insight to improve their designs. The handheld tool combines the latest AR software with global navigation satellite system (GNSS) survey data. 

Inspection: Site inspections are often done manually and usually require more than one person, particularly with larger sites. Inspectors are now using AR technology to compare different structures with pre-prepared BIM models. They can also capture shots of complex structures and retrieve vital information on enabled devices, before sharing this with colleagues on sites elsewhere. AR software enables site managers and engineers to visualise the different phases of construction and highlight any issues that could arise throughout the process so any adjustments to design and build can be made in advance. 

Project revision: According to Independent Project Analysis Group, over 35% of construction projects experience a major design change. Although not every project requires extensive alterations, changes can be needed to prevent misalignment and other issues from occurring. With 3D modelling and other interactive software, you can visualise structures to see how features fit in. For instance, BIM software can be used to monitor any issues with the architecture so that you can change the design before materials are ordered and tasks allocated to your workforce. This way, AR technology can help you save money and avoid costly rework rebuilds that put you behind schedule.

The three and a half billion AR users in 2022 will include many site managers and project designers, who will be improving their accuracy and making their construction processes more efficient, reckons Digi-Capital.

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