Geo Week News

May 9, 2023

Where are advanced visualization techniques, AR and VR making a difference in AEC?

As part of the latest Geo Week News report, experts weigh in on where they’ve personally seen advanced visualization dramatically change workflows.

When we think of advanced visualization techniques like 3D modeling, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), we might imagine a distant future where construction sites are filled with workers donning VR headsets and manipulating holographic models with their hands. However, the reality is that these technologies are already making a difference in AEC workflows. From enhancing collaboration and communication to improving safety and efficiency, advanced visualization techniques are transforming the way we design, plan, and execute construction projects. 

In Navigating the Next Era of 3D Visualization, now available for download, we spoke with 5 industry experts about their experience and advice regarding these technologies and their current state of adoption. Is it science fiction - or are these tools becoming a core piece of the construction pipeline?

Nicolas Fonta, Autodesk, described a complex project where visualization was able to help plan a complex renovation with minimal disruption:

“One of our customers in Ireland, Kane, are using VR for the renovation of a landmark property in downtown London, which presents some tricky conditions. The hotel wanted to add suites to the rooftop - but the roof is where all of the MEP was located. So Kane was hired and contracted to move all the MEP underground. 

Nicolas Fonta, Autodesk

They took a scan of the entire area, then bright the scan in virtually with all the MEP material… and started looking at how they would accomplish this… The goal was to get ready, and that’s what they were able to do. The teams could get ready virtually before they actually go on-site to start the renovation. Because the goal was to be as non-disruptive as possible for the existing hotel, they could look at clashes, sequencing and see how it would all work ahead of time.”

Facing similar complexity, Mark Franklin discussed a project at Kleinfelder that required some clever problem-solving and visualization. 

“We do a lot of “hot tap” work within the piping areas of the facilities we work in. Hot taps are when there is an existing pipe that we want to branch off with a new line but are unable to shut down that piping due to the important fluids or gas within the existing system that may be supplying another area of the facility and therefore it can’t be shut off.

Mark Franklin, Klienfelder

The industry has created solutions where there are special tools and connections that you can wrap around the pipe at these specified tie-points and tap into it to create a new connection while not letting fluid or gas escape. This technology allows you to drill through the existing pipe, add a connection point that can now be utilized for the new piping all while not shutting down the system. These can be very tricky to install for a variety of reasons and often the areas where we need to tie into are located in congested or hard-to-reach areas of the facility. 

What we have been able to do is utilize our innovative solutions by 3D scanning the existing areas with millimeter accuracy, which is then utilized in our CAD software to lay out the tie-point locations using exact as-found dimensions and conditions. We can then overlay the new piping as well as the large equipment and tools required to drill these hots taps in place.

Utilizing our animations within these design systems we can see what clashes or space requirements we will need prior to showing up at the site. We can animate everything from the cranes to the tools they use for installation to show how they will be lifted into place and what areas might have clashing or where modifications to the design need to happen. This is all done in the virtual world prior to construction and we are getting amazing returns on investment as we eliminate any surprises that might occur when construction starts.”

While these stories only scratch the surface of what is possible with these emerging technologies, they are already being put to use in large, complex projects. 

To learn more about how AEC firms are using advanced visualization techniques, as well as some the challenges they are facing, download the full free report here. 

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