BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a model-based process that enables architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.
Augmented Reality (AR) can enhance BIM by enabling users to view BIM model data hands-free in 3D. For example, architects and designers can use Model: BIM Edition of the DAQRI Worksense™ AR suite to visualize their models at tabletop scale, enabling them to more quickly hone their designs.
Even more valuable, however, is using AR to view BIM models at full scale in the physical environment. This greatly expands the utility of BIM and multiplies the number of users who can benefit from BIM data. AR can enhance BIM in at least five main phases of a project: design, construction, inspections, operations and maintenance, and renovations.
In a project’s design phase, BIM data includes 3D models of the proposed designs. Bringing 3D models into AR provides an immersive way for designers and architects to evaluate designs for feasibility, function, and aesthetics -- especially when the model is viewed at full scale, aligned in context at the job site. Clients can enjoy a richer review experience, changes may be more easily identified at this early stage, and design options and proposals can be quickly evaluated.
During construction, accessing BIM models in AR can show workers where materials should be laid, where walls should meet, and where doors should be placed. The designs can help with routing services such as HVAC ducts, water pipes, and electrical conduits. AR can help reduce errors in installation, lead to faster task execution, and help identify potential design flaws more easily through direct visual overlay of designs over materials.
Accessing BIM models in AR can improve inspections by enabling visual comparison of as-designed versus as-built. Safety checklists can be presented in context and filtered for the specific location. For example, a typical safety checklist item is “Overhead and underground electrical power lines are located, identified, and avoided.” An AR user with BIM models can see hidden overhead and underground power lines, and if any issues are discovered, the user can drop AR pins at the issue location, tagged with comments or photos for later remediation.
Operations and Maintenance
BIM models can add value to operations and maintenance teams. Operations can be streamlined since the building models as well as the manuals and schematics for machinery in the building can be available to the AR user directly, obviating the need to stop work to search for the information. During maintenance, AR work orders and work instructions can similarly improve performance accuracy, efficiency, and compliance. For both operations and maintenance, safety can be improved as well, because the AR wearable enables hands-free use: the user can view information without having to hold drawings or turn pages of a manual. AR can also improve the training of operators and maintenance technicians in their tasks.
Viewing building models in an AR wearable can inform renovations by showing the placement of hidden infrastructure -- e.g., beams and other structural members, ducts, conduits, and pipes. AR can also be used to help clients visualize redesigns and identify any issues early in the planning, just as AR helped in the BIM design phase.
Additional Benefits of AR for BIM
Besides providing the ability to view 3D models, AR can provide a variety of other benefits to BIM users.
An AR wearable can provide an audio-visual calling service to connect the user to a remote expert, who can see exactly what the AR wearer sees: the physical environment as well as the virtual content augmentations. This enables the remote expert to elevate the skill of the wearer, leading to faster issue diagnosis and resolution.
Issues may be identified during many phases of construction, and AR users can tag issues, such as design errors, quality issues, and differences in as-designed versus as-built, exactly where they are found. Users can also attach data to tags, including names, dates and times, descriptions, photos, and even references to BIM models. Later, other workers can review issue tags and rectify the situations, then update the tags with their names, dates and times, and steps taken to resolve.
For operations and maintenance teams, AR wearables can provide access to real-time performance data, such as temperatures, pressures, and speed. These data can be attached to tags and placed appropriately in the physical environment so that during inspections, AR users can view the live data, identify potential issues, and recommend preventive maintenance to avoid costly repairs and downtimes.
Implementing AR for BIM
Presenting BIM models in AR can be challenging for several reasons.
To be useful, a BIM model in AR must accurately align with the physical environment. This registration is often accomplished by placing a visual landmark in the physical environment that corresponds to a virtual target located appropriately on the BIM model. The AR wearable camera “sees” the landmark, and uses the relative positions of the camera, the optical displays, and the user’s eyes to precisely render the digital model onto the displays so the user sees the virtual target on the model aligned with the landmark.
In addition, the BIM model needs to be displayed in AR so that the user will perceive the model as “at scale,” or full sized, when compared to the physical environment. This is done through clever geometry and mathematics when rendering the digital content.
Finally, the entire process needs to be optimized to be as quick as possible, so that as users move about the physical world, the AR model moves with the user to appear fixed in the environment.
The use of BIM has revolutionized the construction industry, and AR can further extend the utility of BIM beyond the designer and architect’s offices, by making BIM information available and accessible to users on-site in the field. This can enable faster decisions, quicker identification of issues, more accurate construction, more efficient operation and maintenance, and better renovation planning. BIM is an ideal use case for professional grade AR, and professional grade AR is ideal for improving the usefulness of BIM.