Enhanced quality control through virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology that more and more businesses of the 21st Century are finding useful for their work. Education, medicine, gaming, manufacturing, and marketing are all deploying VR and its sister, augmented reality (AR), to teach, entertain, explore, promote, and sell. As VR hardware becomes more affordable and capable, the AEC industry is finding the technology no less valuable a tool in the design and creation of new structures.

KPFF became serious about VR about 3 years ago and has since modeled many different building environments. Bringing together our drafters, engineers and clients, our VR models are comprehensive experiences of future environments. Our clients – from technically-trained architects and interior designers to sales-savvy project developers – have benefitted from project immersion in VR.

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Putting our clients at the VR helm gives them first-hand exposure to their future space. Here, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury explores the design for the new Multnomah County Central Courthouse.

KPFF too has benefitted, finding VR extremely useful to collaborative design efforts. Working with the architect in a VR model, we can verify that architectural intent is supported by the structure in early design phases. Missing elements or structural elements that conflict with MEP systems are immediately obvious. 

The new Multnomah County Central Courthouse was modeled in VR to ensure well-coordinated building systems and smooth construction. It opens in 2020.

This early 3D coordination has become essential to our vault of quality assurance tools. Traditionally, contractors have used software like NavisWorks for coordination. Using VR, project teams can now get ahead of potential issues and estimate quantites more easily and quickly. 

Using Fuzor software, KPFF’s VR models are created from three-dimensional drawings created in Revit. (We still build the drawings in Revit to produce the 2D drawings required for construction.) When in VR, an issue flagged for correction is added to a report and shared with the team. Each discipline can then oversee corrections of individual items or, together, the team can alter a bigger system to make a desired design work. Alternatively, a team member in the VR model can hit ‘fix’ and the change/revision is sent back out to the Revit model to directly revise a flagged item.

‘Walking’ clients through their projects illustrates future spaces in an entirely new way – in true scale. Teams have been able to avoid issues not readily noticeable in 2D drawings or 3D models, and the experience of a new space is brought into sharp relief.

Sightlines and the fan experience are demonstrated in the VR model for the expansion of Providence Park, home to the Portland Timbers and the Portland Thorns. 

For us, VR is not a passing fad. Just like the transition of hand drawing to CAD and CAD to Revit, the VR revolution is here to stay. And who knows what the future may bring us next? Perhaps a VR model might be constructed with loads mimicking the real world that allows the structure to respond accordingly? Maybe the holograms we’ve seen in sci-fi movies will evolve from VR? And why not? Everyone now walks around with a ‘communicator’ from Star Trek in their pocket.

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