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How Augmented Reality is Shaping the Construction and Architecture Industries

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) and is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. AR is generally defined as a system that incorporates three basic features:

  1. A combination of real and virtual worlds

  2. Real-time interaction

  3. Accurate 3D registration of virtual and real objects

The overlaid sensory information can be constructive, where AR adds to the natural environment or destructive where it masks the natural environment. In turn, AR alters a persons ongoing perception of a real-world environment.

One of AR’s primary goals is to highlight the specific features of the physical world, increasing understanding of those features and deriving smart and accessible insights that can be applied to real-world applications.

Augmented reality is continuing to develop to be used in a wide range of sectors. With a variety of benefits derived from the technology, many brands and consumers are beginning to adopt the phenomenon. Two sectors that are embracing the rising popularity and implementation of AR are the construction and architecture industries.

How is AR Used in Construction and Architecture?

Augmented reality is beginning to change the way projects are designed, modelled and built. This concept benefits everyone involved in the project pipeline from engineers and designers to architects and project managers. Within the construction and architecture industries, AR is being used to design and model buildings, providing a more accurate view of what will be built, including all layers of materials and installations that can be complex to understand through drawings among many other useful ways which enable better project management, allowing deadlines to be met, and avoiding issues that would not be identified without the technology.

AR in the construction and architecture industries includes virtual elements which interact with what already exists. Such as combining virtual architectural drawings with a construction site. Reducing the occurrence of errors, saving time, money and resources.

1. Project planning

Augmented reality can be used to produce detailed and interactive models of building projects. This allows everyone on the team and their clients to gain a realistic view of the vision and what to expect. Changes can be made more easily as the models are easier to comprehend before works begin.

AR also offers an added element of accuracy to project planning, which is vital in construction projects. The teams can conduct walkthroughs of the plan before works behind and examine all of the details and components of the proposed buildings’ structure. This also allows the regulating bodies to identify any mistakes before they happen, preventing delays and overrun costs.

2. Automated measurements

AR allows architects and contractors to automatically measure a space’s properties such as the height, width and depth of a room or materials. This data can be incorporated into plans and models, allowing architects and contractors to generate more accurate structures, offering a comprehensive view of the project. This allows the team to know exactly how much labour and materials are required. Alleviating the stress of having to panic-buy extra materials, known to incur extra costs and delays.

3. Project modifications

Augmented reality also allows users to make changes to models directly on site. Using a headset or mobile device, workers can easily envision interior and exterior views of the proposed structure and can make modifications to virtual plans. Walls can be removed or relocated, and layouts can be completely modified on the device, before building work begins, to suit the plot or site that the contractor or architect is present at.

4. On-site project information

Combining digital information and documentation with AR and on-site has been an industry game-changer. Information such as the locations of pipes, walls, outlets, ventilation etc can be accessed directly on site. This allows field workers to monitor a project against its building plan and ensure successful and timely project completion.

This also allows those on-site to see the construction process against its schedule.

5. Team collaboration

It is not unusual that not everyone can be on-site at the same time. AR allows users to take notes and share videos of any errors or design issues that may arise on-site or remotely. This information can be sent and transferred between teams. This allows on-site and remote teams to consult with each other, lowering the time and costs needed to make decisions among teams in person, which can be difficult with conflicting schedules.

6. Safety training

Augmented reality is also being increasingly used for safety training, on and off-site. Workers can be shown virtual drills, instructions and safety scenarios. Significantly improving their awareness of safety, since concentration is heightened in this immersive learning experience. This also has been known to lower training costs and downtime. Workers are also able to use their AR headsets to practice operating machinery in a safe setting before working on-site with heavy and dangerous machinery like cranes.

MUST HAVE: AR Tools and Apps

There are many AR tools and apps that can be utilised throughout the construction and architecture industries that are already being adopted by many firms and practices. Here are a few that are rising stars within the AR game for the construction and architecture industry:

  1. AR Sketchwalk: An AR tool that allows designers to use AR to dive into their sketches to give their clients and themselves a truer sense of the proposed space. Sketches can be positioned in the plan or site and can be walked through, growing the walls throughout the process.

  2. Augment is an application that allows users to view 3D models in real-time and on the right scale. The application transforms plans into 3D model holograms or stimulating life-size products. This is available for use on smartphones and tablets.

  3. Gamma AR is a building site monitoring application that uses augmented reality to overlay BIM 3D buildings via smartphones and tablets. This allows contractors and architects to compare the reality of the work with the planning information contained in the project.

  4. WakingApp is an augmented and virtual reality software company that have released add-ons that enable Autodesk Revit and Fusion 360 users to turn their 3D designs into AR and VR.

  5. SmartReality is a mobile application that is available on a per-project basis. The app can place a 3D model into context, viewable on iOS and Android devices. This can be placed on a 2D set of plans, in front of a site or on an image of the project site.

  6. ARki is an augmented-reality visualisation service used for architectural models. Incorporating AR technology into architecture by providing 3D models with multiple levels of interactivity design and presentation purposes. Overlaying 3D models onto existing 2D floor plans and also provides several interactive functions. Users can capture and record customer views of models and share their content via email or social media.

For a lot of AR applications devices such as glasses are recommended as well as smartphones and tablets. The most popular ones used in construction are the Microsoft HoloLens’ since they are certified as basic protection glasses.

What is predicted for the future?

The Augmented Reality market is expected to reach $60.55 billion by 2023 since technology is rapidly changing the way architects and engineers work. This growth is also influenced by the increasing use of smartphones, tablets and other devices for the implementation of AR technology.

In the construction industry, immersive technology will continue to be used to help in the development of smart cities as AR becomes an integral part of the construction process. AR helps to make data visible. Architects can find more creative and straightforward ways to show urban planners how their projects are going to look in real life by creating engaging visualisations.

Augmented reality alongside virtual reality is transforming the architecture and construction industries, there are huge opportunities to grow within this sector, allowing architects to improve their designs and presentations as well as improving the processes within the construction industry. AR will reduce the chance of errors made at earlier stages of construction, making the process less risky.

At QTD Ltd we are looking forward to the increased use of AR in our clients practices, to streamline the ordering process as well as the specifications of each bespoke order, to match perfectly with plans which are more comprehensible through the use of AR.

What technology do you use?

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