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might evolve. The next step could be virtual reality (VR), which will further enable the project team – and the client – to understand all the project's elements, allowing for greater collaboration, innovation and problem solving.


Steve Marn, Director of Technical at electrotechnical and engineering services trade body the ECA (Electrical Contractors’ Associaon), explores how virtual reality could interplay with Building Informaon Modelling (BIM).

The future looks bright for BIM ‘

lthough BIM adoption remains slow, it's worth considering how its use

immersive 3D experience, allowing you to walk through a building and access information about every part of it – crucial for monitoring costs, meeting deadlines and ensuring objects are correctly positioned.

VR could help the client see how a finished project will look, in a more realistic way than a 3D computer model. Doing this at the planning stage of a project should mean any issues are spotted – and resolved – early on, which should make project delivery more straightforward.

Those already working in this way say it leads to faster project approvals, better relationships with clients and greater client satisfaction – saving them time and money during a project's lifecycle. The technology also allows service engineers to look see real-time data on any errors and maintenance schedules. And VR could source the system's instructions from the manufacturer or seek a second opinion, if this is required before work starts or if a course of action is recommended to the client.

Opons for VR adopon

For firms already on the BIM ladder, there are a number of VR options, including headsets or head mounted displays (HMDs). These provide an

There are also real-time motion capture systems. These allow you to move through a virtual environment as you would a real one, and eliminate the need to use a mouse and keyboard to explore rooms and buildings. Some systems even have full body suits with multiple sensors, making the experience as real as possible. Mixed reality (MR), which blends the real world with virtual images and holograms, may also become more common as part of the BIM process. This approach helps the user to gain greater insight into the construction of the building or a component within it.

Challenges with VR and BIM

An issue that may slow down BIM's adoption of VR is the potential cost of the technology. Some of the more specialist elements mentioned above will cost thousands of pounds. However, the price of VR technology has declined significantly recently. If this trend continues, and the benefits become more widely known, the technology might become more accessible.

Another fundamental challenge remains the construction industry’s slow progress in using BIM Level 2 on all projects. Despite being mandated on government projects last year, there is evidence that many clients are not requiring it, and indeed many contractors and specialist engineers are not offering it during the tendering process. This, therefore, remains the current key objective for the industry in developing BIM.

A more viable and practical approach to VR for BIM newcomers is the use of apps on smartphones and tablets. These can enable anything from viewing a 2D drawing in 3D, to giving you the ability to walk around rooms and re-arrange elements of them. Some apps are even compatible with certain makes of headsets, giving the user a more in-depth experience than one provided by a mobile phone. In addition, more training and support is also required to help get businesses up-to-speed with BIM. The ECA and CIBSE have created a ‘BIM checklist’ for contractors and clients to utilise when they start the climb the BIM ladder. While this is not as transformative as VR, the end goal – enhanced use of BIM to deliver productivity gains in the building and maintenance process – remains the same.

The ECA/CIBSE BIM checklist is available free to ECA members at:

VR could help the client see how a finished project will look, in a more realisc way than a 3D computer model. Doing this at the planning stage of a project should mean any issues are spoed – and resolved – early on, which should make project delivery more straighorward.



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