Virtual reality is an innovative tool that can help to build the future of the construction industry.
Embracing new technologies is crucial to the construction industry as it looks to modernise working practices and address new and complex challenges. And virtual reality offers a breadth of opportunities in design and communication, as well as in the training and development of the next generation of construction professionals.
How VR Technology is Being Used in the Construction Industry
Over the past few years there have been significant leaps forward in immersive technology. Hardware, such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has become more widely available and affordable. This is coupled with advances in software, such as Future Visual’s VISIONxR™ platform, which can realistically reproduce working environments and tasks; and crucially, create a collaborative virtual space where people can work, learn and explore together.
This means that virtual reality isn’t just a technology for tomorrow; it is already being adopted by forward thinking companies within the construction industry to make a tangible difference to real world working environments today.
Key uses include:
Design and 3D modelling
Virtual reality takes the design process to the next level. By creating a realistic digital twin of a proposed construction project, plans can be rigorously examined at the design stage. Being able to walk around a virtual site means that issues can be flagged and addressed at an earlier stage. This can help to significantly minimise costly and time-consuming alterations further down the line.
VR tours – improving communication with clients
Client relationships can also benefit from visiting finished constructions in the virtual world at the design stage, and has been adopted by leading innovators in the built environment, such as Arup. By creating a virtual completed site before it’s been built allows clients to not only visualise, but tour, experience and scrutinise it from the very start of the project. This will help to realise their vision more accurately, as virtual reality helps to remove any ambiguities around their expectations and allows adjustments to be made before construction begins.
Supporting collaborative working
One thing that all constructions projects have in common is that they rely on collaborative working for completion of interdependent tasks. But often these relationships are challenged by fragmented working practices; for example, with workers being on site at different times, or consultants working remotely. Virtual reality can help to improve communications throughout the project’s lifespan, from sharing the finished vision in minute detail, through to providing site updates to those unable to visit the site regularly.
One of the key areas where immersive technology is making a real impact is in construction VR training. Immersive learning experiences give employees the chance to get hands-on and practical experience in a safe, risk-free environment. From health & safety training through to training in intricate technical tasks, virtual reality can help to hone skills, boost performance and improve collaborative working practices.
Benefits of Using VR in Construction Training
The Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) “A New Reality: Immersive Learning in Construction” Report highlights that modernising the construction industry is critical to its survival, and that embracing immersive tech is key to the future of skills development and talent retention within the sector. Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality have the potential to revolutionise training, and the benefits of integrating VR into training programmes offer a solid business case to those considering making the move.
Working in a construction environment can be hazardous and having a highly trained and proficient workforce is the key to minimising safety risks. But a dangerous environment isn’t an ideal place for people to learn essential skills, especially when undertaking high risk tasks.
And that’s where virtual reality can make a tangible difference. Workplaces and tasks can be replicated in a realistic virtual space, where employees can have a hands-on training experience, but in a safe environment. This means they can make risk-free mistakes and hone their skills through practice.
Builds and tests competencies
For job-related training, 70% of what people learn is experiential, compared with 10% through formal learning. Learning by doing, repeating exercises and getting immediate feedback on performance, practice-based VR experiences can make a tangible difference in ensuring the right skills are learned and that knowledge is retained and applied in the workplace.
Additionally, construction VR training provides a great way to easily test competencies on an ongoing basis by assessing and monitoring performance across the workforce. Noninvasive measurement information can be easily recorded from an individual’s VR training experience, such as eye tracking and time taken to complete a task, as well as the number of errors and attempts made. This means that you can be confident that all workers have the necessary skills and ability to work effectively when on site – or identify where further training and off-site practice is needed.
Reduced training time and costs
Virtual reality training can also help to lower your company’s training budget, without compromising on quality and effectiveness. Workers no longer have to spend days off site for classroom-based courses; VR experiences can be undertaken in bite-sized sessions that fit in with other work priorities – and be repeated numerous times with no additional trainer costs. What’s more, they are easily scalable and can be rolled out across multiple sites with minimal disruption.
Using VR for Construction Training
From electricians through to crane operators, plumbers, civil engineers and beyond, VR training can be applied to all roles from across the construction industry. Examples include:
Health & safety training
Leading construction company, Balfour Beatty has developed a health & safety VR experience for staff working on its Smart Motorways project. Designed to help prevent on site accidents, the VR training experience offers a safe, virtual environment that is based on real world examples to improve their understanding of safe working zones.
Crane Operator training
VR training can also be used to train on specific heavy machinery. The Industrial Training International VR’s crane simulator, highlights how VR can be used to accurately replicate real life working environments and allow learners to practice their operating skills; from rotating booms, keeping loads level while maneuvering cargo and catching the swing.
The Future of Construction Training?
As the construction industry relies on the skills and talent of its workforce, by creating virtual workplaces to learn in safely, immersive technologies can offer a fantastic foundation for the future of real world construction projects. VR training experiences can offer practical solutions to the key skills needs of the sector, from health & safety to practical skills development to minimise human error and improve performance of technical tasks. And that’s a future we can all work together on to build.
Foto: Virtual Reality is already being adopted by forward thinking companies within the construction industry