Revolutionizing Walk-Throughs with VDC and Virtual Reality Technology

August 3, 2015


Imagine being able to walk through your new facility—before it is constructed. At Piedmont Fayette Hospital, doctors, nurses, and key leaders recently did just that.

Brasfield & Gorrie virtual design and construction (VDC) professionals gave hospital leaders a virtual tour of the facility only weeks after the start of construction, which will be completed in the fall of 2016.

During the tour, hospital staff used Oculus Rift goggles paired with Xbox controllers to experience how patient rooms, trauma rooms, and emergency department exam rooms would function. After “walking” through the new facility, staff provided feedback on location of medical gas outlets and medical equipment as well as material finishes. The construction team is now incorporating this feedback into the project’s final design.

Patient_Room-webVirtual walk-throughs like this one are becoming increasingly common. While VDC has been used to create virtual walk-throughs for some time, recent advances in virtual reality technology have vastly improved the experience.

In the past, virtual walk-throughs were primarily achieved by creating photorealistic renderings of static images or animated videos. However, these walk-throughs lacked the immersive experience created by personal spatial awareness factors that are now a reality with this new technology.

Compared to traditional methods, virtual tours offer a number of benefits:

  • Cost. Virtual mock-ups can be created at a fraction of the cost of physical mock-ups. A common part of the construction process, physical mock-ups are typically created out of raw materials such as dimensional lumber or cardboard and involve costs for material, labor, and physical space. These costs limit the number of areas that can be mocked up and the level of detail that can be included. Virtual mock-ups offer clients an improved experience for far less cost and with greater quality and detail.
  • User experience. With virtual reality, participants are immersed in the space, bringing all of their senses into the full experience while incorporating spatial awareness and sense of scale. Virtually touring construction models enables participants to truly experience how a space feels, which cannot be as effectively achieved by reviewing architectural floorplans, renderings, or animated walk-throughs. The result is better feedback to improve the final project design.
  • Level of detail. Due to cost and other factors, physical mock-ups are rarely built out to full detail including finishes, furniture selections, and equipment selections. With virtual mock-ups, any space can be modeled to high levels of detail to which it will be constructed, enabling clients to better understand how spaces will look and feel.
  • Ability to compare options. Unlike physical models, virtual models can be developed and modified quickly, enabling the construction team to make changes based on client feedback. With this kind of flexibility, clients can review multiple design options or compare layout scenarios side-by-side.
  • Improved outcomes. When clients are able to fully experience planned spaces before construction and see a high degree of detail, the result is a better quality product, a smoother project delivery, and happier clients.

With this rapidly advancing technology, virtual walk-throughs will become an increasingly common part of the construction process.