Home » Five ways augmented reality is changing the fabric of construction

Five ways augmented reality is changing the fabric of construction

by Sion Geschwindt
Five ways AR is changing the face of construction

The construction site is changing. Paper drawings, pens, and notepads are being replaced by 3D models, drones, robots – and increasingly, augmented reality or ‘AR’.

AR superimposes computer-generated objects into the user’s physical environment, typically via mobile applications, headsets, and other smart devices.

A testament to its growing popularity, the global AR market is expected to balloon by over 40% from 2021 to reach a total valuation of £255bn by 2028.

While construction is a relative newcomer, AR headsets are fast becoming a common feature on job sites across the globe.

To better understand the rapid uptake of AR in construction, we explored five key benefits that the technology brings to the industry.

Enhanced safety

Construction is the highest risk industry in the UK, with a serious injury rate double the national average.

To prevent injuries on construction sites, workers must be rigorously trained – both for their safety and others’.

Yet, safety training can be costly, time-consuming, and potentially hazardous, especially when an inexperienced worker is using dangerous equipment.

Augmented reality can be incorporated into wearable items such as glasses. Credit: HQuality/Shutterstock

AR can help by simulating tools, equipment, and other safety scenarios to facilitate risk-free training. These training programs are designed to be as realistic as possible to ensure that the skills are transferable to the real world.

AR can also assist educators through life-like demos allowing workers to see equipment in action before heading to the site.

Some AR devices, such as glasses or mobile devices, can scan tags or labels on objects and then display safety or hazard information to keep the user informed.

In addition, companies can use AR to illustrate hazardous materials or situations without exposing team members to the real thing. 

Remote collaboration

AR headsets can facilitate virtual collaboration between field workers and office-based specialists, allowing site visits and inspections to take place remotely.

Workers can take photos or videos of issues, which can be viewed and reviewed by remote teams. This direct visual connection between onsite and offsite specialists can improve identification of errors or issues during the construction process.

Remote experts can make notes and diagrams, and even film their own hands and tools, whill will appear as overlays in the caller’s display.

In this way, AR can speed up decision making, minimise downtime, and reduce travel expenses for the required team members.

These functions are becoming increasingly relevant due to the global shift to remote working that has taken place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Planning and proposals

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has fundamentally transformed the design and planning process.

BIM can be integrated into AR, allowing stakeholders to take virtual tours of buildings in progress or visualise a design.

AR can illustrate the effect of certain changes to the construction process in real-time, helping identify potential errors early on before they become major issues.

Crucially, AR gives companies the ability to showcase final designs more accurately than ever before.

Want to show a client what a proposed building would look like? AR can bring that vision to life.

By enabling the layering of multiple parameters and elements onto a building plan, clients can get a better understanding of the project. This deepened perspective can ultimately mean the difference between the approval or rejection of a proposal.

AR also enables inspectors to survey the job site with far more accuracy, which can expedite planning permission.

Less down-time

Finishing construction projects on time and within budget is crucial if you want to maintain good relationships with your customers.

With AR, the user can immerse themselves into the BIM model, adjust the building schedule, and plan out the logistics weeks in advance. It gives project managers the foresight to visualise how everything fits on-site before materials are ordered or the amount of labor is calculated.

During the construction phase, workers can spot any overlaps faster and prevent rework. In addition, you can prefabricate parts beforehand without being afraid of issues with misaligning or miscalculations.

Workers will be able to tap and automatically measure built pieces and compare them to the specified measurements from a model.

One job-site revision allows for the discovery of inconsistencies and the prevention of costly down-time by quickly adjusting to the changes.

Project flexibility

When working from a blueprint or other 2D model, it can be harder to spot opportunities for design improvements than with a detailed AR display.

Using an AR headset with a digital overlay, engineers can easily change the layout of walls or other essential structural components.

One major benefit of AR is the ability to make changes to building models directly onsite. Using a headset or mobile device, workers can easily display interior and exterior views of a structure and make any modifications to the virtual plans while keeping one view intact.

This application is particularly useful, as it allows for experts to troubleshoot any errors in a virtual view before applying changes to the physical structure.

Since this digital data is continuously updated, it removes the guesswork from project changes while improving the workflow and preventing any wasted materials.

But most importantly, these features improve flexibility and adaptability allowing construction professionals to make quick, accurate adjustments that improve the finished product.

Main image: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

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