A week ago, last Monday evening I presented at a local meetup group Design Reality that was for an AEC focused XR event. My goal was to expand the awareness of AR/VR beyond the 3D rendered images commonly used in pre-construction design reviews and into what I see as a sweet spot in AEC construction. XR is the new term for eXtended Reality which combined AR/MR/VR and is a nice high level since it appears that all three will be combined in the future more and more.
Augmented Reality (AR) also called Mixed Reality (MR) using hardware like the Microsoft Hololens, provides the benefit of providing the wearer with heads up information about the construction projects. Heads up information such as the BIM model overlaid on what you see to provide a visual of what has been added, QA/QC checking, construction reviews, walkthroughs, and more.
I used a recent example of the new Autodesk Portland office where the historic Towne Storage building, a brick building from 1913 was brought up to code and renovated to a 6 floor office building. MR/VR provided a great deal of benefits on this project.
An overview of the Towne Storage before the renovation and afterwards.
It was a rough gem after so many years and required major renovation to meet code and brought up to office standards. We felt this was the place and worth sharing in saving a historic and beautiful building that screams Portland and celebrated the manufacturing and makers of Portland. We could have moved into many options, but this called out to us. It was rough with holes in stairs, holes in floors, and a massive crack running from the ground floor to the top floor. A major structural retrofit was required with two massive shear walls and re-grout most all existing brick. Once the shell and core were brought to a point we could then focus on the interior office build out designed by local architects Mackenzie.
We worked with local architects and construction companies to get to the reality of Autodesk employees moving into this amazing spot that celebrates the long history of Portland.
We involved employees in their office on all aspects of the project right down to the conference room naming. VR was used to allow them to walkthrough the office and see it before it was real and provide feedback and get excited about the future office. I can’t stress enough how amazing it is to involve your employees in the process when you are planning a new office to move them to affecting them and their lives. You end up with a better design more fitting of the employees, and happier employees that feel a part of the process and proud of their office they helped bring to reality.
Our Portland based contractor on the office build out, Fortis Construction used MR during the construction.
The design was rich in 3D digital design model data and ripe to use inside construction for QA/QC, progress checks, and even installation assistance for complex assemblies and installs like the stairway. Our General Contractor Fortis Construction made use of many technologies and one was Microsoft Hololens.
I brought Phil Miller to speak with me about his use of MR on the Towne Storage project. Phil and his company are using technology and MR in AEC construction and finding benefit. Phil is the only person I know that wears a 360 degree camera on his hard hat. They embrace technology where it shows promise to improver the construction process and reduce mistakes.Phil uses a solution called HoloLive from VisuaLive which prepares BIM model data and pushes it to the Microsoft HoloLens and adds a great deal of construction specific functionality for construction.
Phil's slide on what Microsoft Hololens should be used for.
”Mixed Reality Enabled viewing of coordinated model within real space” –Phil Miller of Fortis Construction
During the Rough-In is the best spot for MR use currently in construction for Phil.
Coordination Overlays for clash detection - the Old Way…
Clash Detection the New Way…and in context when using MR.
An example of using MR on the Towne Storage building.
The one moment I wont forget on the power of MR to help in construction is related to a complex reclaimed wood staircase. It was complex and inspired by the cutting toolpaths you would see in CAM. The sub contractor who was installing the wood was having a hard time understanding spatially what the design was to start construction using just 2D and 3D drawing.
Phil placed the Hololens on the sub-contractor and within seconds the subcontractor was smiling and understood what we wanted and then started to figure out the process of the install. MR had just communicated the design intent in context of the building space – boom. There was another example of the power of MR in AEC construction. Getting a subcontractor on the same page of the design and seeing what you intended and want.
AR/MR is no longer a “toy” for catching Pokémon, it is a bonified tool with promise to help reduce the wasted resources in the construction industry.