Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR)

A simulated computer-generated environment which a user can immerse himself within by means of VR glasses and handheld controllers. During construction design, VR e.g. allow users to experience walking around inside not yet constructed building.

Virtual reality (VR) is a simulated computer-generated environment, that may or may not be similar to the real world. Typically, the users wear VR glasses, while they move around in the virtual environment and control the experience by means of handheld controllers. In other cases, the virtual reality experience is transmitted to the users by means of multiple large screens in a VR room or in a VR cave. Users may choose to use headphones or other haptic equipment to get sensory feedback from the virtual environment.

In construction, virtual reality is used for

  • To involve customers and end-users in the construction design process by letting them experience in VR how the finished building or structure will look like.
  • To facilitate better communication and coordination between construction professionals during projects.
  • To train professionals e.g. how to use a crane by means of VR simulators. This is especially useful for expensive tasks and in dangerous environments.

The virtual environment may be used to display a potential new construction project that has been designed from scratch in BIM, or it may display the current state of an existing built structure captured by means of e.g. reality capture technology.

If several stakeholders want to communicate in virtual reality, they should either enter a VR room/cave or all wear VR glasses. Multiple users may be displayed in the virtual environment by means of avatars.

Benefits and challenges

  • Improved quality to the customers, as they are able to experience the built structure before it is built.
  • Reduction in rework, because stakeholders are able to spot clashes and potential problems before construction begins.
  • Enhanced collaboration, as VR allows remotely located professionals to meet virtually on the construction site.
  • Improved safety as training simulations allows the workers to make mistakes without getting hurt
  • Restricted communication with co-located people. Users of VR glasses are isolated from the real world, and need to take off their glasses to see other people in the eye.

Application examples

As part of the design of a new large-scale hospital in Hillerød, Copenhagen, medical professionals are consulted through the use of a VR studio. The VR studio (delivered by BIM Equity) is a room with multiple large screens, allowing several end-users to stand side-by-side and experience walking around in the future hospital, wearing only 3D (not VR) glasses. The end-users test work flows, wayfinding and give feedback to the design before the construction process is initiated (

In Denmark, VR is used to attract young people to the construction industry by letting them experience a typical workday for a construction professional through virtual reality (

Development stage

Virtual reality glasses have been on the market since the Oculus Rift VR glasses were launched in 2012. The technology has already been adopted by several construction companies world-wide.

Virtual reality is a more mature technology than augmented reality. In the future, these two technologies are expected to melt together, as the equipment will allow the user to do both.

Construction impact

VR will primarily affect the design phase of a construction project, e.g. to assist planning and detailed design.

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24 JULY 2024