Digital Construction Awards 2024: Ulster University wins Digital Innovation in Asset Management category 

Ulster University winning Digital Innovation in Asset Management at the Digital Construction Awards 2024
Andrew Toye (centre) and David Comiskey (second right) collect their trophy from Ollie Hughes (left) and Karolina Orecchini (second left) of Digital Construction Week and Tom Allen (right) (Photo © 2024 – ASV Photography Ltd.

The ‘Virtual Campus’ experience created by students at Ulster University was acclaimed by the judges, who handed the project the Digital Innovation in Asset Management award, sponsored by Digital Construction Week, at the Digital Construction Awards last night (2 July). 

Virtual Campus is a student-driven project, originating from undergraduate research. It uses a digital workflow to create immersive 3D virtual replicas of key spaces on all Ulster University campuses, allowing users to virtually explore and connect with their campus.  

Category sponsor

The project’s ambition was to support the health and wellbeing of staff and students around space familiarisation and transition, with a focus on vulnerable students’ mental wellbeing and anxiety levels. The context was the university’s relocation, transferring approximately 15,000 students and staff members from its Jordanstown campus to a newly constructed campus in Belfast City Centre. 

Virtual Campus originated from an undergraduate student research project that investigated the use of augmented reality to aid space layout communication for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

The workflow involves the use of laser scanning technology to capture spaces, which are then modelled or updated in Autodesk Revit before high-quality visual and virtual reality outputs are developed, all hosted on an intuitive and cross-platform interface. This workflow is hosted on a cloud-based platform allowing seamless access for team members and replicating real-world practice, providing an exceptional learning experience for the students involved.  

A key outcome from the project has been the learning experience. The students involved have developed their knowledge of advanced model authoring in Revit along with family creation and work-sharing practices. They engaged with industry professionals on the process of data capture (using RTC 360), processing (using Cyclone 360) and then application in Revit via Cloudworx, using point clouds for accuracy checking and to aid model development.

Students learnt how to use the Enscape plug-in for Revit to produce VR-compatible outputs, leading on both the workflow development and with end-user engagement, becoming familiar with the operation of viewers such as Oculus Quest and Google Cardboard. 

This is a lovely project that is notable for this approach to an increasing problem for universities: student anxiety. Excellent use of technology and new solutions in teaching and learning. The Ulster University team has done an excellent job and the project deserves recognition.

What the judges said

The project has had a profound and positive impact, reaching 4,600 users to date, with 13,600 views and 3,200 VR experience views. The feedback received has referred to positive benefits around navigation, inspiring students and raising aspirations. The student rating of Virtual Campus experience has an average of 4.8/5. A pilot ‘Virtual Campus – The Experience’ virtual reality game has been developed that should further enhance engagement with the outputs developed.  

Ulster University describes the project as a pioneering response to the societal challenges posed by geographical barriers, with the use of digital technology allowing users to transcend these boundaries, making the experience accessible to individuals regardless of their location. 

David Comiskey, Reader (Associate Professor), and Andrew Toye, Virtual Campus project manager, both of Ulster University said: "This project is an example of how the collaboration between academia and industry can really accelerate innovation. The project has been driven by the students, for the students. It is wonderful to see all the time and effort they have put in being recognised at such a prestigious event. Hopefully this award win will help to take the project onto the next level."

  • Ethos Engineering | Streamlining data visualisation for facility managers
  • Glass Aftercare | Facade information management system
  • iDEA | King’s College London Vantage Model
  • Kier/Ministry Of Justice/Glider/Future Decisions | Ministry of Justice digital twin pathfinder
  • Lattice | ULEZ expansion signage
  • Notting Hill Genesis | Golden Thread programme
  • School Property Matters | Operational excellence in asset management
  • Ulster University | Virtual Campus
  • Zutec | Taking charge of building risk assessments

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