Practical Virtual Reality - SMEC

ClientMain Roads WA/Public Transport AuthorityLocationAustralia, WA
ConsultantSMECContractorAllan Walker

Project Summary

Over the past few years, the SMEC Perth office has grown their business more than eight-fold, and it’s easy to see how when you examine the innovations that they are using to engage their clients. A key component of SMEC’s technical service delivery is Digital Engineering, which is fundamental to how they create value for clients and their projects.

For example, with the help of Revizto - “a cloud-based visual collaboration software for architects, engineers and contractors to communicate their design within the project team in a navigable 3D environment” (source: Wikipedia) - SMEC regularly sends 12d Model IFCs to Virtual Reality (VR) headsets for their clients to experience designs in ways they’ve never encountered before!


The Challenge

Using 12d Model alone, the SMEC team already knew they could present clients with a TIN, which would look good and have the relevant information...but you can’t walk around on a TIN! Enter VR.

After determining that VR would be beneficial to their processes, the SMEC team set out to test various methods of delivery as they needed to find the most effective workflow to ensure they were not losing any intelligence on the way into the model.

Some potential solutions required gaming software experience (which can become costly) and others involved reading in and out of a variety of third-party packages.

The Solution

Reading 12d Model IFCs into Revizto (via a third-party package) has been the best solution for the SMEC team at this stage, but they continue to refine their processes as they go, ensuring they’re always at the cutting edge of available technology.

To support the federated model process, SMEC utilised an additional function in Revizto to push the IFCs into the HTC VIVE plugin for VR. Attributes in 12d Model could then be seen visually in the digital platform within the Revizto environment - i.e. they could see the attributes on a screen as they’re walking around the model!

SMEC’s Team Leader - Design & Drafting, Roads & Highways (Perth), Allan Walker said, “Once time has been spent writing 12d Model attributes and meshes, it’s an easy process to export to that environment. We engage this process for public consultation, virtual site walks, and general correspondence. It’s been a huge asset at times when clients have looked at a design solution in 3D and don’t really understand the complete concept. With the VR headset, they are easily submersed into the environment – measuring physical distances, checking how big an object would be in the project, etc.”

One detailed design project SMEC had been working on involved 4.5GB IFC outputs, which created a 4GB Revizto file that took just half an hour to upload into the cloud. In fact, the whole turnaround for the federated process can be as quick as 15 minutes for smaller models!

Including the process of draping on a 3D CAD file from the landscape architect, the SMEC team finds that it generally takes just half a day to put everything into the environment and output the IFC – this time saving is extremely beneficial.

SMEC is currently working with Main Roads Western Australia and the Public Transport Authority on a project for which the local city council was unsure about the placements of trees, or of how removing existing trees would impact on the streetscape. The SMEC team worked with a landscape architect and created a series of proposed tree locations using 12d Model’s BIM trimesh object apply, then submersed these into the model itself, so that with VR goggles, they could physically see new trees replacing old trees and create the most appealing environment for the situation. This enabled the clients to determine what would be the finished product.

The Result

The feedback SMEC has received from clients on these technological innovations has been outstanding. They’ve been able to resolve queries through digital discussions and virtual site walks so that clients can see solutions before committing, meaning they were happy and able to close off RFIs in a timely fashion.

VR really helps people perceive solutions, especially those who benefit from a visual representation.

Another advantage is when designs change based on new information and feedback, it’s already set up and can run in the background - revisions are really simple once it’s all loaded in.

The duration of the process is dependent on internet speed – hefty IFCs can slow down some systems - but it’s a time saver nonetheless when compared with previous processes.

SMEC has been working on this method for several years – they’ve conducted rigorous testing to create the best possible format for client engagement. And the more projects they’re working on, the more they utilise it.

The integration of Digital Engineering as best practice has contributed greatly to the growth of the Perth office over the past few years. Other SMEC offices are also using VR and they encourage their clients to come in for a live demo.
12d Solutions can’t wait to see what SMEC comes up with next!

[Most images from 12d Model, with thanks to SMEC.]

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