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According to a leading Sydney based architect, the world of three dimensional graphics and real-time viewing is set to impact construction projects in Australia from design through to post completion.
Last month, Rana Abboud was awarded a $10,000 scholarship by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to investigate and prepare a white paper on how augmented reality (AR) – the overlaying of a view of a physical real-world environment with computer generated sensory input which allows, for instance, computer generated images of a structure to be superimposed into a real life local view of a property before the physical building is constructed there – will reshape processes such as design visualisation, construction and post completion building maintenance.
Abboud says her research will focus around precedent cases showing how AR is been used to streamline and bring greater efficiency to regular tasks in the three project stages.
She says the applications of AR as a practical tool in the building industry are not well understood.
“I think people probably associate it (AR) more with entertainment and gaming than anything useful” Abboud says. “There are very few people actually using it in the field in Australia. I think universities are really way ahead of where industry is at.”
Abboud says the potential of AR goes beyond that of Building Information Modelling (BIM). In terms of design, for example, she says AR adds a layer of context that BIM does not provide in that it allows users to see how things will look in real time on an actual site. Rather than being in an office in front of a computer screen, for example, an architect could take clients out onto site and show them with an iPad what the proposed design would look like in practice.
But where AR really comes into its own, Abboud says, is in construction, where the system can combine the 3-D architectural layout of a building with GPS data of a person’s location on the site, allowing them to put on goggles or hold up an iPad and get a three dimensional concept of where things need to go relative to where they are standing.
When performing an excavation, for example, an iPad or goggles will show users in 3-D whether or not they need to go deeper or how close they are to underground pipes or utilities.
Likewise, when performing installation work, the technology can read a building layout and tell users whether or not they are in the right spot for the installation or need to move right or left.
This, Abboud says, provides for a more intuitive way of working.
“People usually use 2-D drawings and measure off that,” she says. “What this (AR) would do is allow you to overlay the computer data directly onto the site and walk around. So it’s not a static, one perspective view. Basically, you walk around a site and you can see these ‘hot spots’ which show the location of where things need to go.”
Abboud says AR will deliver substantial cost savings by making processes more streamlined and efficient but she is unsure how soon the technology will gain widespread adoption and deliver on its potential.
“Even now, BIM’s been around for ages and not everyone uses it,” she says. “So it really comes down to who the early adopters are and where the technology is at, and who’s going to be getting the most of the time saving efficiency that it (AR) allows you to gain.”