Virtual Reality isn’t just for video games. As Pier discovered, there are some serious real-world applications for this exciting new technology.
Pier, a native of Peru, started his journey into the world of construction with a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Architecture from Ricardo Palma University in Peru. Today, Pier lives in Toronto as the senior manager of Building Information Modelling and Virtual Construction at Ledcor Group. Together with his team, Pier creates 3D models of construction projects.
Over the past two years, Pier and his team have been exploring the limits of the technology and can now offer full virtual reality mockups of construction models to stakeholders. Creating immersive experiences that replicate the finished project means decisions can be made and changes can be approved before even breaking ground on a job site.
“We provide stakeholders and consultants with a headset and controllers, and they can walk through their completed building — to scale and in real time,” says Pier. “It’s tremendous.”
The use of 3d models, also known as Building Information Modelling (BIM for short) has become an efficient way for Pier and his team at Ledcor Group to see their entire completed project before rolling out the blueprints. In fact, BIM covers everything from reliably calculating the dimensions of a project and the supplies needed to planning where to put access points during construction. It’s huge for productivity and safety on the job site. When you can see all angles of a project from start to finish, it goes a long way to reduce the chance of re-work and accidents, and cuts down on construction waste.
Ever since I was a kid, I always liked that futuristic use of technology,” Pier recalls. “Growing up, I always wondered, ‘when will we be using the stuff we see in movies in real life?’ In many cases, we’re already there.”
Pier got to see this childhood dream come to life with a special project that owed a lot of its success to gaming.
The gaming industry has been a powerful force to move forward the technology used today in the construction industry.
“It’s an interest of mine,” says Pier. “I researched the process myself and brought it to the team as an option. The very first VR experience we were able to prepare was for an Operating Room in British Columbia’s Women’s and Children’s hospitals that we had recently built.”
Building requirements for healthcare construction demand a physical mockup of any renovations or additions to be made out of cardboard. Surgeons often like to experience the space physically, to ensure it’s properly laid out so they can move around with ease while operating. Creating a mockup in Virtual Reality not only saved resources but let the surgeons “walk” through their new space before it was even built.
“It was a leap of faith,” said Pier. “And we turned what would have been a four-week cardboard construction project into a VR project in about four days. Not only that, but we didn’t use a single piece of cardboard, which we considered a huge achievement in sustainability for this project.”
Pier can’t wait to see where the construction industry will go next. He’s already seen an increase in interest in the industry when his team attends job fairs at local schools, and Ledcor’s co-op programs expose students to the diverse opportunities that this industry provides.
“When we visit colleges, universities, or even high schools, we let them know, construction is not just lining up bricks or putting up walls, but there are a lot of exciting opportunities where you can develop your career,” says Pier. “When we show up with our VR headsets, we get a lot of interest from younger generations. They can see the potential of the technology. Showing kids that this equipment they play with can actually evolve into a career for them is amazing.”