Augmented Reality in Construction
Augmented Reality in Construction
One of the most exciting advancements in modern construction is the use of augmented reality (AR). AR technology can revolutionize how construction teams work, from design visualization and collaboration to on-site construction assistance and improved long-term maintenance. Augmented reality provides various benefits that can help companies create the world of tomorrow more efficiently and effectively.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is an immersive technology that overlays digital information, such as images, videos, or 3D models, onto the real-world environment in real-time. AR effectively allows users to experience the digital and physical worlds simultaneously.
What is the Difference Between AR and VR?
Whereas VR creates an entirely artificial environment, AR enhances the existing environment with digital elements. While VR can be useful for training purposes or to showcase designs, AR has the potential to be a more practical and efficient tool for construction teams. AR allows companies to work more efficiently and collaboratively, in a safe and cost-effective way.
AR Elevates the Construction Industry
AR builds on construction’s recent innovations and has the potential to take the industry to the next level. The construction industry has undergone a technological revolution over the last 40 years.
1980s: Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
Drawn and drafted prints of construction projects gave way to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) in the 1980s. CAD allowed firms to design accurate building plans and blueprints, which they used to plan projects and impress clients.
2000s: Building Information Modeling (BIM)
Since the early 2000s, Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been on the rise. BIM allows each team on a project to upload their models into a single database, among other things.
Today: Augmented Reality (AR)
Now, augmented reality can incorporate CAD and BIM data to create detailed 3D models that overlay the real world. CAD has enhanced accuracy and consistency. BIM has created more detail and collaboration.
AR is the next natural step for construction innovation, and it can enhance design, construction, maintenance, and on-site management.
Benefits of Augmented Reality in Construction
Augmented reality provides a range of benefits that can help companies create the world of tomorrow more effectively and efficiently. Let’s explore some of the benefits of AR in construction.
Winning Bids with AR Presentations
Augmented reality helps construction professionals to win more bids by taking their clients through visually stunning and immersive presentations. Traditional presentations often include physical mock-ups, which can be costly and time-consuming.
Dr. Hala Nassereddine of the University of Kentucky conducts in-depth research on AR in the construction industry and remarked,
“In construction, it is typical for a contractor to build mock-ups – full-size representations of proposed construction with real materials – to ensure quality of construction and reduce rework. But then the client may not like certain aspects of the mock-up, or the design may need to be changed, and the contractor has to spend time and money modifying the mock-up until the client is satisfied.”
Deliver enough bid presentations, and you know how valuable it is to show fully crafted construction designs and alter them on the fly for clients. Even minor change requests can extend the bid process by days and weeks. AR allows firms to showcase options and collaborate on potential changes that a client may want without tearing down and rebuilding costly mock-ups. Dr. Nassereddine continued,
“With augmented reality, a contractor can present a 3D model of the proposed work to be constructed, resolve problems virtually, and save time and money.”
AR can superimpose massive 3D models onto the future construction site or scale the model down to fit onto a boardroom table. Presentations that utilize augmented reality help build client trust and confidence, which increases the likelihood of winning new business while saving time and money.
AR Design Visualization
AR technology can also show real-time measurements and other information at the future project site. This data overlaid in the real world can be used to identify potential design flaws before construction begins.
One disastrous instance of failed planning is that of the Walkie Talkie building in London. The building is infamous for melting cars and cooking eggs with its concave glass wall. The initial construction costs were over $200 million, which doesn’t include the corrective work they had to do in the aftermath.
If the architect, planners, and inspectors had benefited from AR, this embarrassing and hazardous situation might have been prevented.
AR On-Site Communication and Management
Augmented reality can share information and data in real-time, allowing professionals from different disciplines to work together more effectively. Miscommunication and project management errors can result in higher costs and missed deadlines, which may lead stakeholders to lose confidence.
AR allows workers to visualize and discuss design plans, share measurements, and track progress. More detailed data enables site managers, contractors, and superintendents to keep detailed reports and adjust work accordingly. This ensures that different trades can work simultaneously and collaboratively, saving time and money.
AR Construction Safety
Augmented reality can play a significant role in enhancing safety in the construction industry. According to a 2021 report from the National Safety Council, construction was one of the most dangerous industries in fatality rate and days lost to injuries. Safety starts with training, and augmented reality provides realistic training for safety scenarios. By overlaying the real and digital worlds, workers can practice responding to emergencies or operating dangerous equipment. This can help them develop the skills and confidence to do their jobs safely.
When used in the design phase of a project, AR can provide workers with immersive 3D models. These visuals can help them see potential hazards before they become safety issues. These AR models can also help project leaders identify potentially dangerous areas of the future work site. This allows them to prepare their workers for a project’s specific factors.
Once a construction site is live, workers can utilize AR to see underground, through walls, and above ceilings. AR can also mark hazards, such as holes or live wires. This data allows workers to maneuver through a project with less risk of injury.
AR Building Maintenance
Augmented reality adds long-term benefits to building owners and operators, which can help construction companies close more deals. AR can provide 3D replicas of entire construction projects, which construction companies can hand to building owners. These replicas, or digital twins, allow building operators to see where everything is, even hidden things like plumbing and electrical.
As an owner, this information is invaluable. Workers can see exactly where an issue might originate when maintenance is needed without knocking holes in walls. In the event that an owner wants to renovate or add to a structure, the digital twin guides their construction crews. All of this information saves the owner time and money.
Maintenance workers can also use AR to access digital manuals and repair guides. Numerous AR developers offer remote support for maintenance tasks such as electrical repairs or wifi server upgrades, which allow workers to fix problems and make enhancements more efficiently and effectively.
Return on Investment
Augmented reality saves time and money, bringing measurable impact by:
Challenges Using Augmented Reality in the Construction Industry
Augmented reality can revolutionize the construction industry by providing real-time data and visualization of construction projects in a collaborative and controlled way. Nevertheless, there are several challenges that must be addressed as you consider adopting AR at your company.
While AR technology has made significant strides in recent years, its effect may have specific limitations worthy of consideration. Job sites, as you know, can be unpredictable environments. AR headsets can be uncomfortable for extended periods, especially in extreme temperatures. This discomfort could impact worker productivity.
In addition, job sites may not offer strong internet connection, which can lower the effectiveness of the technology. The equipment is also susceptible to adverse conditions such as rain or snow. Additionally, advanced CAD and BIM data, commonly used to feed AR technologies, may be too costly for some construction companies to adopt.
The construction industry is subject to strict regulations and compliance requirements. Companies might be reluctant to try new technologies or processes that could compromise compliance.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration of the United States (OSHA), like many of the governing bodies of other countries, enforces safety compliance. While they currently have no restrictions on AR equipment, they do regulate any technology that may introduce hazards.
Augmented reality headsets have the potential to be distracting for workers, or may include additional wires and battery packs that are obstructive and potentially not compliant with OSHA standards. An AR headset also dims the view, like a weak pair of sunglasses. This can make working in low light difficult or dangerous, making it more likely to trip or run into something.
To ease these safety concerns, construction companies should implement strong safety policies and procedures that address how AR technology is used on the job.
The construction industry has been slow to adopt new processes and technologies. According to a report by McKinsey & Co, research and development spending in construction accounts for less than 1% of revenues.
Key stakeholders within construction companies may lack awareness of immersive technologies. They may not know how this technology can improve construction processes, reduce costs, or enhance services. Construction companies are often risk-averse because construction projects are complex and require significant upfront investment. Adopting a new technology or approach that is untested, or carries unknown risks, may seem like an unnecessary gamble.
It isn’t just industry leaders that may be hesitant to adopt this new technology. The construction workers on the ground may be unsure about using augmented reality. They may lack technical savvy, or dislike how a wearable AR device feels under their hard hat.
Additionally, the construction industry is highly fragmented. With many small and medium-sized companies operating in different trades across a single project, the adoption of new technology can be difficult.
Augmented Reality: Applications and Use Cases in the Construction Industry
While AR has not been widely adopted in the construction industry, its potential impact is undeniable. According to a report from Grand View Research, the AR market is expected to grow from $38.56 billion in 2022 to $597.54 billion in 2030. AR applications and use cases will continue to grow and evolve. Below are some ways that AR is already impacting the industry.
Akular AR creates 3D models that allow companies to design and monitor projects, from the design phase through to tenant maintenance needs.
GAMMA AR creates 3D overlay models that help architects, engineers, and construction professionals identify potential issues and make informed decisions early in the design process.
Argyle has developed patented alignment technology that allows companies to convert their BIM models into AR visualizations.
Akular AR allows firms to showcase scaleable 3D models to stakeholders and potential clients, allowing parties to test different textures, colors, and elements.
Geopogo Inc. develops 3D visualization software tools that improve the process and outcome of design and construction.
makeSEA provides tools to help architecture, design, and construction firms offer customers a truly different bid, buy, and build experience.
Arvizio AR provides 3D models, including BIM and CAD, and creates AR digital twins in a fully synchronized experience.
Sphere offers mixed-reality solutions such as digital collaboration, workflow guidance, and life-size overlay.
Frontline.io provides on-site workers with real-time guidance, such as overlaying plans and specs onto physical environments. It also offers real-time monitoring and recording and session analytics, allowing for continuous process improvements.
Frontline.io can help maintenance teams identify and diagnose issues by overlaying digital information. This reduces downtime and also reduces the cost of failed/repeat repairs.
Sphere Connect provides an efficient and effective way to collaborate and troubleshoot problems remotely, reducing travel costs and time and increasing productivity.
vGIS helps reduce time and increase safety in location-specific jobs. Municipalities and utility companies use this to maintain their vast infrastructure networks which are often underground or difficult to access.
Stand Out with Augmented Reality
According to McKinsey and Co research, large projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget. These statistics showcase the tremendous opportunity that AR can provide to companies wanting to stand out.
Despite the challenges you may face in adopting augmented reality technology, the benefits of AR for the entire construction project lifecycle are dramatic. By providing designers and architects with interactive models, inviting clients into inspiring presentations, and offering workers real-time data and visualization, AR can help you outpace your competition.
Want to explore the use cases of AR in your operations? Give us a shout, or get started today.
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