Skanska is early UK adopter of system that brings BIM models to the field

Skanska is one of the first companies in the UK to license an augmented reality system designed to quickly visualise complex BIM models in the field.

VisualLive enables users either wearing HoloLens goggles, or with an iPhone or an iPad, to experience Revit, Navisworks or CAD models at 1:1 scale on site, or zoomed out on a conference table during meetings.

The system integrates various project management tools, including the ability to clash detect, carry out quality assurance/quality control using measuring tools, capture issues and visualise model data. 

VisualLive is already used by more than 1,000 companies worldwide, most of them in the AEC sector, including main contractors, M&E contractors, building owners and utilities companies.

Of these, 26 are in the UK, including Skanska – though the firm is guarded on the details.

The system has been used to deliver several large hospital and hotel projects in the US, including at Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida. 

According to Saeed Eslami, CEO of VisualLive, its use on a recent US$150m (£115m) project in the US resulted in US$3.5m (£2.68m) of direct savings for the general contractor, roughly equivalent to a 3,500% return on investment.

“The savings resulted from easy access to BIM models in the field and efficiencies such as the reduced number of design review meetings,” Eslami told BIM+. “This is not just ‘cool’ new AR technology, we set out with a vision to make a practical AR solution for the AEC sector that would increase efficiency and productivity in the field to ultimately save time and costs.” 

VisualLive plug-ins for Revit and Navisworks are designed to quickly convert BIM files so they are optimised, but retain all geometries, textures and materials, plus critical information and data needed in the field. Models are viewed in HoloLens, or smart devices, offline, then sync back to project software once back in the office.

Survey points or scanning markers are used to snap 3D models into their proper location on site. Users can the walk freely through the design, checking openings and tolerances for systems in “real” space, or look behind walls and ceilings to see services, or underground to see concrete foundations or sewer lines.

The HoloLens version of the system, known as HoloLive, costs $4,700 (£3,598) per device a year for unlimited users. Companies with multiple headsets receive a “heavy” discount, says Eslami. Key features include issue tracking/management, scaling options, layer management, advanced measuring, X-Ray mode, VR mode and photos/document management.

A basic version, without collaboration functionality or the ability to sync with project management software, costs $2,000 (£1,531) for an unlimited number of devices.

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