Augmented Reality and the future of construction
Evolving technology has changed the world as we know it, offering new ways to work faster, and more efficiently. In particular, the introduction of digital innovations such as augmented reality (AR) is helping architects, engineers and construction workers to overcome challenges in completely new ways. From enhanced building accuracy to improved levels of project management, we are still only scratching the surface of AR’s massive potential. What’s more, the AR market is growing, with some experts predicting it will reach an estimated market value of $50 billion by 2024.
Beyond upfront monetary value, its worth is far wider-reaching. Significantly, it’s enabling construction project teams to experiment with structural designs and compare the digital model with the physical result in real-time, taking building capabilities to new heights. Further able to minimise mistakes and ultimately achieve higher-quality builds, it’s no wonder global spending on AR is predicted to increase.
So how is AR being used day-to-day in the construction industry, especially on-site?
The future of construction
Incredibly, AR, powered by smart devices on-site is now wearable, capable of being integrated into hardware such as goggles and helmets. This portability is something of a game-changer helping to make AR more accessible for works on-site.
Importantly, this development allows for 3D models to be superimposed live during the operational phase. It creates an in-situ view of how a building will look, harnessing assets taken from building information modelling (BIM), onto the real world.
The ability to manipulate 3D models is a useful exercise at all stages of projects. For example, in the planning stage, AR allows teams to render models and structures in their exact location before they are built, identifying potential issues such as clashes ahead of time. Further down the line, it can play a crucial role in comparing installations against specification models to accurately evaluate ongoing work, ensuring it stays within accepted tolerance levels and validate works in real-time.
Greater interoperability to better results
AR also has the capacity to be interoperable too, and can be combined with other software to improve collaboration and information sharing. For example, it can be linked to collaborative file management platforms, or common data environments – this allows for more information to flow across different teams, reducing the likelihood of misinformation which lead to errors and expensive rework (the process of redoing or adjusting work where mistakes have been made), a persistent, yet avoidable, problem that affects productivity.
Now, prolific software including Computer aided design (CAD) and BIM have taken physical information and drawings online where they can be handled more holistically and with greater accuracy.
AR can work in unison with BIM revolutionising the way construction professionals manage projects, bringing the latter’s renders before the very eye, allowing workers to interact with and analyse holograms in real-time, allowing for more agile communication, quicker changes and greater accuracy when building.
The integration of these two technologies is a great example of how different digital solutions can be combined to maximise their effectiveness.
Preventing rework using AR
By using AR, it’s also possible to prevent issues like rework from occurring by allowing contractors to build to exact specifications and validate works in real-time.
Around 30% of the work performed by construction companies is actually rework. Engineering-grade AR has even been seen to reduce rework to less than 1% on some projects. This can deliver massive benefits to the overall profitability of a project.
AR not only saves on project costs but also minimises wasted resources, reducing the environmental impact of construction. As workers on-site can build with improved accuracy, fewer mistakes mean less materials are needed and in turn, less waste is produced, and project timelines are met.
The construction market is expected to continue growing and as construction and the existing built environment are already responsible for approximately 39% of global carbon emissions, in today’s environmentally-conscious climate this is a fact should not be overlooked.
AR is one tool that business leaders across the industry can harness to build more conscientiously and sustainably, reducing errors, minimising waste and improving efficiency, resulting in lower emissions.
Overcoming obstacles for AR
Whilst AR has been welcomed in many sectors, construction has traditionally been considered a late tech adopter. With tight timeframes and even tighter margins, businesses have been apprehensive about investing the money needed to integrate new technologies.
However, attitudes are changing and, moving forward, extensive research and feasibility studies are helping to make AR technology more attractive. Further digital enhancements will also help unlock its true potential, making it easier for companies to realise the cost vs benefits that are possible.
Although there’s still some way to go, leading contractors like PM Group and Mace are leading by example, integrating cutting-edge AR technologies into their workflows. We have already seen the uptake of advanced technologies on-site at a rate faster than ever before along with a range of powerful software and I predict that this is simply the beginning.
We now need to see a greater uptake of AR technologies, raising the bar on what’s possible to work as smart and efficiently as possible. Ultimately, AR is an enabler, growing in capability by the day, and helping construction contractors survive and thrive in an increasingly digital landscape.
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