A new report has urged the construction industry to embrace virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing technology to meet the government’s 2025 targets.
The study for the British Council of Offices by Arup says: “If the UK construction industry is to come close to the ambitious targets in the government’s construction strategy, there needs to be a rethink about how we design, procure and construct buildings in the future.”
The report, titled Virtual Reality and 3D Printing – Reducing waste in office construction through new technology, adds: “Design change is a real problem in the industry and contributes to major delays, significant re-work and wastage of material resource.”
Virtual reality could aid faster decision-making by enabling quicker design comparisons, early identification of design issues and changes before significant work is done, improved understanding of construction sequencing and logistics, and better training to help reduce the cost of mistakes and accidents on site.
However, the report states that the VR experience “can be isolating and less collaborative if poorly managed”.
The technology could become a valuable part of the visual mock-up process, the report says, enabling stakeholders to make a first assessment about aesthetics and the qualitative aspects of the project before anything is built, shortening the process and reducing time, labour and material costs.
It could also enable prospective tenants to stand in the shell and core and experience the fit-out.
VR is already gaining traction in the industry and contractor Skanska has distributed AR “hardhats” on UK construction sites, the report adds.
3D printing, meanwhile, has the advantages of zero material wastage, quicker build time, cheaper bespoke parts, and a reduction in transportation time and cost.
But the report also identifies several limitations, including the immaturity of 3D printing, limited quality assurance, and the large investment required for commercial use.
3D printing could also be used for moulds, and companies such as Laing O’Rourke are using moulds to cast bespoke concrete and metal parts.
“3D printing has the potential to revolutionise the way we design and construct our buildings in the future,” the report adds, as it could turn construction methodology on its head and drive a very different form of procurement.
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