THIN FILM CONVERTS HEAT FROM ELECTRONICS INTO ENERGY

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An illustration of how the thin-film device system converts waste heat to energy. Credit: Shishir Pandya


Nearly 70 percent of the energy produced in the United States each year is wasted as heat. Much of that heat is less than 100 degrees Celsius and emanates from things like computers, cars or large industrial processes. Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a thin-film system that can be applied to sources of waste heat like these to produce energy at levels unprecedented for this kind of technology.

The thin-film system uses a process called pyroelectric energy conversion, which the engineers’ new study demonstrates is well suited for tapping into waste-heat energy supplies below 100 degrees Celsius, called low-quality waste heat. Pyroelectric energy conversion, like many systems that turn heat into energy, works best using thermodynamic cycles, kind of like how a car engine works. But unlike the engine in your car, pyroelectric energy conversion can be realized entirely in the solid state with no moving parts as it turns waste heat into electricity.

The new results suggest that this nanoscopic thin-film technology might be particularly attractive for installing on and harvesting waste heat from high-speed electronics but could have a large scope of applications. For fluctuating heat sources, the study reports that the thin film can turn waste heat into usable energy with higher energy density, power density and efficiency levels than other forms of pyroelectric energy conversion.

“We know we need new energy sources, but we also need to do better at utilizing the energy we already have,” said senior author Lane Martin, associate professor of materials science and engineering. “These thin films can help us squeeze more energy than we do today out of every source of energy.”

The research will be published April 16 in the journal Nature Materials. The research was supported, in part, by grants from the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.

Pyroelectric behavior has been known for a long time, but accurately measuring the properties of thin-film versions of pyroelectric systems has remained a challenge. A significant contribution of the new study is to demystify that process and improve the understanding of pyroelectric physics.

Martin’s research team synthesized thin-film versions of materials just 50-100 nanometers thick and then, together with the group of Chris Dames, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Berkeley, fabricated and tested the pyroelectric-device structures based on these films. These structures allow the engineers to simultaneously measure the temperature and electrical currents created, and source heat to test the device’s power generation capabilities – all on a film that’s less than 100 nanometers thick.

“By creating a thin-film device, we can get the heat into and out of this system quickly, allowing us to access pyroelectric power at unprecedented levels for heat sources that fluctuate over time,” Martin said. “All we’re doing is sourcing heat and applying electric fields to this system, and we can extract energy.”

This study reports new records for pyroelectric energy conversion energy density (1.06 Joules per cubic centimeter), power density (526 Watts per cubic centimeter) and efficiency (19 percent of Carnot efficiency, which is the standard unit of measurement for the efficiency of a heat engine).

The next steps in this line of research will be to better optimize the thin-film materials to specific waste heat streams and temperatures.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is create a protocol that allows us to push the extremes of pyroelectric materials so that you can give me a waste-heat stream and I can get you a material optimized to address your problems,” Martin said.

 


This article was reposted from Phys.org and provided by University of California – Berkeley, April 16, 2018.

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HOW ARE DRONES AFFECTING THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?

drone

Drones are emerging as a leading trend in construction technology in 2018. The presence of drones in construction means significant changes within the industry. Drones have already begun changing the way the construction industry operates, and those changes will have continued and lasting effects.

Nearly one in five (18 percent) of small to medium size construction businesses are currently using drones for photogrammetry and mapping. Goldman Sachs estimates that the construction industry will adopt drone usage more rapidly than any other commercial industry.

chart-drone-tech-budgets-by-industry

Here’s a look at some of the ways drones have already changed things and how these trends will impact construction operations in the future.

Surveying Land

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones are rapidly replacing traditional land-surveillance methods.

They are growing in popularity so rapidly that some have even abandoned the classic “bird’s-eye view” expression with “drone’s-eye view.” Drones greatly reduce the labor and time involved in producing accurate surveys. Drones eliminate much of the human error involved in the process and have the ability to capture necessary data in much less time than traditional methods would take.

Drone technology is capable of dramatically reducing time and resources needed for surveying. A traditional surveyor would spend up to a month to survey a construction job site in detail, a construction company called Identified Technologies uses self-flying drones to complete the same work within minutes, greatly expediting project timeframes and reducing physical labor costs.

Improvements to Infrastructure

Drones provide superior endurance and intelligence on job sites. Their ability to collect and report data allows work to be completed faster. The need for manual labor is all but removed from the equation. In the future, drones will take on even more integral tasks involved in large projects. They are poised to cut the time it takes to build a skyscraper by a broad margin, thereby cutting costs. Contractors who rely on drones will be able to make much more ambitious bids and complete work on time.

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Communication and Management

Drone technology has evolved to the point where instant connectivity and communication on the job site are at a surplus. Drones are being used more and more as a means of maintaining constant contact at worksites. Drones that feature mounted cameras can provide video footage to facilitate communication and surveillance.

They allow companies to keep tabs on employees and workers and are considered an increasingly invaluable tool for superintendents and investors.

Already, communication and management are seeing a sharp increase in efficiency due to the ability to collect real-time data from drones. The decrease in delays in gathering data is having more of an impact each day. The ability to manage workflow 24/7 is unprecedented and is certain to have a significant impact on all manner of construction processes.

Improved Overall Security

The advent of drones is causing a sharp increase in security efficiency. Whether the drones are used to maintain the safety of employees or to protect the job site from theft or vandalism, they are steadily seeing greater implementation in the construction industry.

Accurate Surveillance

Drones have the ability to be practically everywhere at the same time. They don’t just reduce theft and keep workers safer; they create a round-the-clock real-time monitoring system that has already been adopted by a number of construction companies. They elevate onsite security and safety by a tremendous margin.

Even though the FAA exacts strict standards on the use of drones, most models used by constructioncompanies come in under the 4.4-pound weight threshold and 400-foot travel radius required to be considered “Hobby Class.” Drones that meet those criteria are not subject to stringent regulations.

As of right now, they can be flown practically anywhere for any reason. Drones can also safely survey dangerous locations, reducing workplace accidents and increasing job site safety.

Transportation and Inspection

The use of drones in job site inspection also means a drastic increase in worksite safety by eliminating numerous dangers and safety hazards. Using drones to transport goods aerially allows companies to execute difficult inspections and keep track of everything that enters and leaves the job site. It saves money and time and keeps the site secure. Since drones are generally small with high levels of maneuverability, they are being used more and more as an alternative to traditional vehicles. Even better, drones do not have to adhere to traffic laws, which allows them to make deliveries in a fraction of the time, using half of the resources.

So, apparently drones are affecting many facets of the construction industry in a good way. They are creating high efficiency processes and being accepted even by many small to mid-size businesses. Other technologies to watch out for and that are leading the way are autonomous equipment, Augmented/Virtual Reality, and 3D printing.

chart-construction-new-tech-adoption

 


SOURCES/EXCERPTS:

The Balance, 6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry, March 17, 2018.

Software Connect, Construction Technology Trends – 2018 Report, January 2nd, 2018.

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NEWPORT IN ACTION

Newport Ventures hosted a Plan Review for Residential Buildings and a Plan Review for Commercial Buildings in Syracuse, NY on March 14th, 2018. Matt Evans and David Brignati were the trainers for these sessions.

The Residential and Commercial Plan Review and Field Inspection curriculum is very interactive and require participants to engage with one another to perform plan review activities as they typically do in the daily course of their work. For the plan review portion of the course, participants are divided into groups of four or five and given a set of plans and specifications for different types of residential buildings. Together they will go through the construction documents to identify any missing or non-compliant elements. Once they have completed this work, each group will present its findings to the larger audience.

The field inspection portion of the session is less activity based, but still very interactive. Compliant and non-compliant construction details are presented and short videos are used to show attendees visually common problem areas that often cannot be seen ahead of time in the architectural plans. Frequently, actual implementation raises awareness of conflicts between building systems or construction details that result in non-compliance – for instance, thermal bridging at window or door openings or improper air sealing of party walls.

Check out the photos below – see us in action!

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3D PRINTING IN HOME BUILDING


3D Printed Whole House in 24 Hours


What is 3D Printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.

3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

3D Printing in Home Building

3D Printing has made significant leaps and bounds in the last few years. The first 3D commercially viable 3D printed car was debuted in November, 2015 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and is now available for purchase.

In the first quarter 2016 the Oak Ridge National Laboratories showcased the first viable, fully 3D printed home suitable for every-day living. Companies like Apis Cor are producing fascinating results and can print a house within 24 hours. Currently, it lends out its machinery to various other firms.

“Construction the way it’s done today is very wasteful,” says Behrokh Khoshnevis, the director of the manufacturing engineering graduate program USC explained in a presentation on Contour Crafting at TEDxOjai.  “Our solution benefits from advanced technology…It is essentially a way of streamlining the process of construction by benefiting from the experience we have gained in the field of manufacturing.”

The 3D printer lays out concrete and interlocking steel bars as it builds a structure. Khoshnevis says that the printer can handle the plumbing, electrical networks, and flooring for multistory buildings.

Khoshnevis sees the technology as a way to quickly rebuild communities and towns damaged by natural disasters.

“My true hope is that this technology gets to be used worldwide to the fullest extent possible,” he said.
Similarly, countries like China are experimenting with contour crafting. A project by Shanghai based WinSun uses recyclable materials to print houses for $4,800 dollars per unit. In this case, all the parts are printed separately first and later on assembled.

Since bigger construction projects require a massive build area, companies have had to think outside the box. On-site Robotics, for example, have been working with the concept of increasing build volumes by mounting printers on cables and monitoring the process with drones. These concepts are rapidly evolving over time, but they have a long way to go.

3D printing will continue to improve and soon it will be possible for anyone to print just about anything. In the not too distant future, you could fully expect to see every house have a 3D printing room which will be used to print everyday objects like plates, cups, towels etc.

How far off are 3D printed houses in the U.S.?

3D printed housing structures are possible today. So 3D printed housing could be available within the next 10-15 years. The natural place for this to first start is the pre-fabricated home industry. They already have adopted the idea of building the pieces in one location ensuring quality and price controls and then assembling elsewhere. This is a perfect place to use 3D printing of housing materials.

 


Resources

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SMART HOME TECH TRENDS IN 2018

Homeowners are beginning to embrace smart home technology and artificial intelligence in their homes, with connected lighting systems, virtual assistants, and programmable thermostats that learn your preferences. A myriad of new products were on display at trade shows that kicked off earlier this year. There are a few specific trends that seem to stand out and are on the rise. The biggest trend in the home technology field is how everything is not only offering wireless connectivity, but also offering services powered by artificial intelligence.

The vehicle for this vision of the smart home could be those new-age iHome devices that package AI assistants into a more traditional, less intimidating alarm clock exterior. Or it could be familiar smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, which everyone has already been receiving as holiday gifts. Or it could be your usual appliances that will just all run on AI.

Samsung announced that it’s aiming to make all its products not only internet-connected by 2020 but also “intelligent”, via its smart voice assistant Bixby (Watch out, Alexa and company!).

Indeed, the biggest takeaway on the smart home front is that it still feels like only the beginning. Tech companies are finding so many ways to deliver the connected smart home that it seems likely to find us one way or another, eventually.

Take a look at the top 3 specific and provocative smart home trends and products that may be widely relevant sooner than later.

Fully Wireless Kitchen

One of the most “futuristic” yet timely technologies was the wireless kitchen developed by Michigan-based startup Urbaneer with small spaces in mind. Wireless charging furniture has been around for awhile, but this kitchen design amps up the technology and in a practical way. Compatible appliances charge and run right on the countertops, so that those surfaces become a cooktop when needed and free counter space the rest of the time.

A wireless kitchen would also cut down on cords in the kitchen, especially important near sinks. The kitchen “island” shown in the photo above sits on wheels for extra flexibility. Everything in the exhibit, from the wireless countertops to the Philips and Haier devices that work with them, are actually already on the market.

Smarter Home Deliveries

Last fall, Walmart and Amazon triggered a collective shudder when they announced in-home delivery services that use smart locks and security cameras to let couriers into your house while you monitor the process remotely via an app.

Major smart lock maker, August, who partnered with Walmart for its in-home delivery pilot, announced it’s opening up the service (now called August Access) to the broad network of retailers that work with same-day delivery startup Deliv.

Next-Level Remote Controls

Physical remote controls aren’t going away in the smart home. They’re just shifting shapes. There’s still many products that boil smart home control down to the press of literal buttons. They are just adding new integrations for smart lights, speakers, thermostats, and more.

However, an interesting approach to tactile smart home control comes from Nanoleaf, which makes modular, internet-connected light panels. This year, the company debuted the Nanoleaf Remote, a palm-sized dodecahedron that works with Apple HomeKit. Each of the remote’s dozen sides can be programmed to launch a different command, be it a specific lighting scene created by the panels or settings for any HomeKit-compatible device, from locks and cameras to outlets and fans.

 


Resource and excerpts: CES 2018: Smart home tech trends you need to know, By Jenny Xie, Curbed.com, January 17th, 2018.

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ENERGY CODES ARE LIFE SAFETY CODES

Energy codes do much more than just help builders construct tighter houses

Building codes ensure and protect the safety of the houses and buildings where we live and work. The International Energy Conservation Code, or IECC, is one of a suite of model national building codes adopted by state and local jurisdictions to ensure a bare minimum of durability, quality, health, and safety.

Once in a while, we hear building officials mistakenly say they don’t adopt or inspect for the energy code, “because it is not a life-safety code.” This comment, however, stems from a basic misunderstanding of the energy code, and what it is designed to achieve. We’re here to correct the record—the energy code fundamentally improves the durability of buildings as well as the health and safety of us humans inside. It’s not just a “nice-to-have.”

(It’s worth remembering, though, that the energy code is the only code that literally pays for itself, saving homeowners and building owners money year after year. The energy code as a whole, and the provisions in it, are tested for their cost-effectiveness. Extra money in your pocket: that is indeed “nice to have.”)

But back to the life safety discussion: The energy code affects the moisture management (rot, mold, and mildew), indoor air quality, fire safety, extreme weather protection, and resiliency of home and buildings. It works in tandem with the other model building codes to ensure safe buildings.

Once a building official good-naturedly joked with us, “You all think it’s the energy code that keeps the buildings from falling down.” There is more than a grain of truth to this. Meeting the requirements of the energy code increases durability of the building envelope —and yes, that helps ensure that the walls stay standing, and that the house remains livable for decades upon decades. Inside the house, the energy code guards against pollutants, mold, mildew, and vulnerability to temperature extremes. Let’s take a closer look.

MOISTURE MANAGEMENT
In a nutshell, the energy code aims to want to prevent rot, mold, and mildew. Rot destroys the structure of the house or building, making it potentially unsafe to inhabit, and mold and mildew wreak havoc on human health. To prevent rot, mold, and mildew, the energy code dives deep into the field of building science—controlling heat, air, and moisture transfer in building enclosures. The energy code is based on the latest advances in building science, treating each building as an integrated, complex system and taking into account climate zone, building materials, and more.

Warm air that comes in contact with a cooler surface can condense water onto that surface. Throughout different seasons and climate zones, houses are full of areas where warmer air and surfaces come in contact with cooler air and surfaces. Preventing that condensation through proper sealing, insulation materials, and construction techniques is what keeps the rot, mold, and mildew from running rampant. Here’s a sampling of energy code provisions controlling moisture:

  • Air barriers. Air barriers prevent air—which carries moisture—from carrying and depositing that moisture right into the wall cavities.
  • Slab-on-grade insulation. Take a cold slab in the winter, and add warm conditioned air above it: you get condensation. Slab-edge insulation, if done properly according to code, reduces the risk of condensation.
  • Rim joists. Rim joists are often easy to insulate but difficult to properly air seal. So, in colder climates, air (and moisture) passes through the insulation and condenses on the rim joists, keeping those rim joists moist for months on end. First the mold sets in, and then the rim joists get rotted out, making the building unsafe. Air sealing the rim joists according to code protects against this.
  • Condensation on windows. Here we have the same story: warm conditioned air that comes in contact with the cold surface of the glass in winter months can condense, damaging nearby wall, ceiling, and floor materials over time. Better-quality windows specified by climate zone in the code significantly reduce this condensation.
  • Ice damming. Ice dams are thick ridges of ice that build up along the eaves. These can tear off shingles and cause water to build up and leak into the house. Ice dams form when warm air seeps through cracks and crevices into an unconditioned attic, causing snow to melt on the roof but refreeze at the cold eaves. Properly insulating and sealing the ceiling assembly, as specified in the energy code, is the solution.

These building science specs are in the energy code for a reason: to protect building stability and durability and protect human health. Many of these moisture issues are hidden from view until the structure is unsafe or health is adversely affected. This leads us to our next “invisible” issue: dangerous levels of air toxins. What you don’t know can hurt you.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY
An unofficial motto of the energy code is “build tight, ventilate right.” Basically, it’s about ensuring safety of the air the occupants breathe. Air that leaks into a home or building can carry pollutants and contaminants—car exhaust from a garage, or radon from under a foundation, for instance. That’s one reason the energy code has very precise details about separating conditioned space from unconditioned space. We also need to ventilate out pollutants that arise from inside the house, such as the gases emitted by certain building materials, furniture, finishes, cleaners, paints and more. Rather than letting air leak in or out from any random crook or crevice leftover from poor workmanship, and rather than gambling on the levels and whereabouts of dangerous contaminants in the air, the energy code seals the hidden leaks and specifies how and when we need controlled, whole-house ventilation.

FIRE SAFETY
It’s the fire code that keep fires from crumbling our houses, spreading to nearby structures, and killing lives in the process. But the energy code helps. The energy code’s focus on tight construction, sealing up all the cracks and holes, and separating conditioned from unconditioned space also helps prevent fire and smoke from spreading through draft openings. If the apartment, condo, or single family house next door catches fire, yours doesn’t get smoke damage or catch on fire as easily.

EXTREME TEMPERATURES AND STORMS
During extreme heat waves or extreme cold freezes, the energy code elevates from a life-safety code to a life-survival code. Every extreme heat wave that triggers a blackout is accompanied by news stories of lives lost from heat stress, especially among the elderly or people with health conditions (for instance, 700 lives were lost in the Chicago’s 1995 heat wave, and more than 100 in the New YorkCity’s 2006 heat wave).

Extended winter outages spur similar news stories. When a cold freeze or blizzard knocks out power, occupants may resort to fires or portable gas heaters just to keep warm, leading to a risk of home fires or carbon monoxide poisoning. Leaky houses with little insulation and terrible windows—well, these make the fatality numbers rise.

Tightly-built and well-insulated houses with good windows help maintain livable temperatures for longer, allowing residents to “shelter in place.” A study after Superstorm Sandy (which left 8 million people without power) modeled residential building types versus energy codes and showed that newer codes allow people to stay in their homes for more days during blackouts triggered by heat waves or cold freezes. And buildings constructed to higher performance standards became “so improved that they were merely uncomfortable, rather than dangerous”—a ringing endorsement in this case.

It all comes down to better building envelopes. Although the energy code addresses the efficiency and comfort of all major building systems—including mechanical, hot water, and lighting—in a power outage, none of these will work. One component of the energy code that does continue to work in a power outage: the building envelope. Newer codes (and better enforcement of codes) mean better building envelopes—and that means more lives saved.

DEVELOPED BY EXPERTS IN BUILDING DURABILITY
Each new version of the model energy code is developed through an extensive consensus process by experts in building durability and building science. The everyday users of building codes—builders, architects, engineers, code officials, raters, and more—develop, adopt, enforce, and improve upon the energy code because they care about the safety of our built environment and the health of its inhabitants. The energy code is not a “green code” or an aspirational standard—it is the bare minimum that building officials deem acceptable and that consumers expect they are getting.

INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER CODES
Local officials, through the International Code Council, develop the model energy code in tandem with the model plumbing codes, electrical codes, fire codes, mechanical codes, and more. They all fit together like a puzzle. Leaving the energy code behind—because of misunderstanding its intent or importance—can cause codes to be out of sync and can cause inconsistencies between other code elements. You can’t take a chunk of one jigsaw puzzle, put it in another, and expect it to fit well. It’s better to upgrade the whole suite of model codes at a time, including the energy code.

NEW CODES ARE IMPROVED CODES
Just like other codes, each new version of the model energy code improves on the last. As newer, safer, and more durable building materials, technologies, and techniques become more commonplace, they are voted on and incorporated into the model energy code. The latest version of the energy code also clarifies sections that had caused confusion, simplifies the language, adds flexibility, and removes contradictions between different parts of the code—making it more likely that builders can comply with the code’s intent and that building departments can verify safety and durability. Here’s our tip—always update to the latest code.

Energy codes create safe, resilient, and habitable structures based on building science and physics principals for heat, air, and moisture transfer—all of which have real and significant impacts on human lives and health. Our message to builders, architects, engineers, local building departments, and health and safety advocates: the energy code is a life safety code.

 


About the Author: CHRISTINE HURLEY BRINKER

Christine Hurley Brinker is a senior associate in the Buildings Efficiency Program at Boulder, Colo.-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, where she advances building energy codes, energy efficiency programs, and local policies.

Article reposted from Builder Online

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FORWARD THINKING: VIRTUAL REALITY IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Virtual Reality (VR) was born as a tool for gaming. It enables people to immerse into a new dimension while playing their favourite games. The extraordinary characteristics of VR give users the chance to get thrown into a new, digitally constructed reality, which resembles real life. But the gaming industry is not the only place where VR is useful. Coping with reality is a real challenge for professionals working in the construction industry: it is indeed very well-known, when projects come to life, they can be threatened by a high amount of inefficiencies that result in low profit margins.

Many of the problems found in the construction industry are directly correlated with the inability of field personnel, designers, architects and engineers to truly experience a project before it is built. This creates costly issues, and in many instances work has to be stopped or paused as construction teams stumble upon errors which couldn’t be seen on paper. Essentially, construction professionals have to use a flat 3D model, rather than immersive technology, to visualise how alike a finalized project would be to the initial plans when complete.

VR’s use today is shifting from gaming to other, more practical applications. VR can indeed enable professionals in any industry, but particularly in the construction industry, with an incredible tool that gives them the chance to immerse themselves in a project before spending months, if not years, constructing it.

The challenges of the construction industry

Starting from pen and paper, the construction industry has always been based on tools that enable designers to preview and analyse images and ideas, allowing them to plan which actions should be taken to physically assemble a model.

New technologies have recently been developed to project these ideas in a three-dimensional space; these new advances have profoundly revolutionized the construction sector, helping professionals from all over the world have better and more precise insights on the technical specificities of their projects. Technology such as computer-aided design (CAD), as well as 3D modelling and Building Information Modelling (BIM), are often used to show clients formats, spaces, and systems before a brick is laid.

However, previewing paper and flat computer-generated details still only provides practitioners with a limited experience of the finished building: certain faults related to construction and design arise only when the construction process has already started, and these issues force practitioners to stop work and re-assess the feasibility of the construction. These problems are usually very difficult to spot on a digitally generated image, as even 3D models, due to their lack of depth, cannot visualise clearly exactly how the building or facility will look and feel like when built. Often, these shortcomings also affect business relationships as the designer’s vision for the completed structure fails to match the client’s: when on paper, in fact, it is very difficult for the client to communicate their exact needs, and at times the finalized project doesn’t correspond to the desired outcome.


Virtual Reality. Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-simulated environment that allows you to interact in a realistic and/or physical way within the environment. An example of virtual reality in construction is interactive 3D modeling that allows you to manipulate the model to test the effect of changes before making them in the real world, which are available from companies like Autodesk via offerings like Revit Live for software and HTC’s Vive for hardware.


Virtual Reality: a solution to these issues

Virtual Reality, as it was designed for gaming, is a tool that can immerse a person inside a virtually constructed environment. 3D modelling and BIM programs, which made huge advancements in the field of project modelling, can now be adapted to VR tools, to visualise a fully virtual representation of an idea in a new dimension at a relatively low cost point. Put simply, the user sees a 3D display through a headset and can get an ‘all-round’ view by turning their head to the side, up and down. For Victaulic’s clients, they can even look “up” and see the headers and distribution piping, visualizing it’s about visulation but what separates VR from 3D is that you can feel it every piece of pipe as if it were hard piped in.

The most obvious benefit of virtual reality for construction firms is that it can save time and money by allowing construction professionals to test any number of features before works starts.  The VR headset allows all parties involved in the construction phase to identify potential conflicts or required changes at the design stage, rather than during construction, when they’re extremely costly to put right. Construction professionals can literally “walk inside” their project with the entire piping system installed and have the ability to spot any fault that they would not have been able to identify on a flat model on a laptop. VR helps guide their judgement, and can confirm whether the designed structure resembles exactly what they had in mind, providing a much clearer idea of whether a building will be fit for purpose and without significant faults.

In addition to this, the client can experience the project virtually, which means they can assess if the finalized building looks and feels exactly how they imagined. For clients, being able to physically look around and visualise how a building will function before it has been built is a major advantage. It provides the opportunity to pick up on the smallest of details, like whether a piece of equipment will fit in a space, and give the contractor feedback accordingly. This greatly improves communication and collaboration between the two parties in an agreement. It provides the opportunity for more valuable input from all, and reduces the possibility for misunderstanding, which could sour future relationships.


Augmented Reality – Augmented Reality (AR) is any technology that superimposes spatially contextual information over the user’s view of the real world, providing a additional data while still permitting interaction with the real environment. An example of augmented reality in construction is the Daqri helmet, which provides workers with real-time information and data about the construction environment, such as animated instructions on how to complete a task, while they are engaged in that task.


Opportunities

VR technology is still in its infancy, but companies in the construction industry are increasingly integrating it in their design processes to enrich their design strategies. Companies are able to create high quality, industry-leading content that gives their customers the ability to view their models in a virtual environment, allowing contractors to complete projects faster than they could with traditional methods.

There are also various money saving opportunities with Virtual Reality (and Augmented Reality) technologies that are benefitting construction firms today. Some of these benefits are:

  • Reducing Rework
  • Improving Safety
  • Lowering Labor Costs
  • Meeting Timelines
  • Resolving Issues Faster
  • Increasing Quality

Over the last 5 years, costs for VR equipment having significantly decreased, opening up the technology to companies and industries that previously couldn’t justify the high costs. These cost reductions, coupled with the software behind the lens becoming more robust, has meant that it can play a much larger role in the construction industry. For these companies they are seeing the value straight away. It requires limited implementation time and users see the value in even the first use.

Conclusion

VR has a future in the construction industry. It reduces downtime and miscommunication between designers, construction professionals and clients, making the planning and building process run faster and more precisely. VR could be at the centre of your daily drawing processes and obtain great results in delivering clearer and more precise projects to your clients.

 


Source: VRfocus.com and Connect and Construct

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