Jason Vander Griendt, founder of Render3DQuickly, posted a pretty decent roundup of some current applications for VR in the construction industry:

Humans are emotional and the more you connect with them emotionally the easier you can communicate, and this is what virtual reality helps you to achieve. Giving an immersive experience whereby your prospective clients can preview the elegance of your projects increases the chances of them approving of your request to work on their projects. Virtual reality gives a sense of satisfaction as it helps to satisfy the urge to know what lies behind a project.

The following points really resonated with me:

Even before some projects begin, there is a high chance there could be some dispute later. You don’t want to spent time and money working hard on a project only for it to be rejected later. This problem can be eliminated by offering a detailed illustration of the project so the client can see what will be included and some of the features that could be added to make it better. It provides a basis on which a client can make a decision whether to implement a project or to reject it before work commences.

Virtual reality also provides an easy guide to those who are not able to read technical scripts and maps. Everything that is provided is within the imagination of the client, and this makes it easy for them to understand because they can relate with most of the features included.

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e) in Netherlands reports the following:

Today the Built Environment department’s concrete printer starts printing the world’s first 3D printed reinforced, pre-stressed concrete bridge. The cycle bridge will be part of a new section of ring road around Gemert in which the BAM Infra construction company is using innovative techniques.

One of the advantages of printing a bridge is that much less concrete is needed than in the conventional technique in which a mold is filled. By contrast, a printer deposits only the concrete where it is needed. This has benefits since in the production of cement a lot of CO2 is released and much less of this is needed for printed concrete. Another benefit lies in freedom of form: the printer can make any desired shape, and no wooden molding frames are needed.

An extra detail is that the researchers in the group of Theo Salet, professor of concrete construction, have succeeded in developing a process to also print the steel reinforcement at the same time. When laying a strip of concrete the concrete printer adds a steel cable so that the bridge is ‘pre-stressed’ so that no tensile stress can occur in the concrete, because this is something that concrete is not able to cope with adequately.

This is quite a feat! By including steel reinforcement and the ability to pre-stress, 3D printing is truly beginning to become a viable option for certain projects. What is especially fascinating to me is how this technology might be able to in the future avoid a common issue in structural concrete erection: congestion.

I have about $15-million in claims sitting on my virtual desk right now in which reinforcing congestion resulted in delays that had a material impact on the job.

Here’s a video:

According to The Engineer, a UK publication:

A consortium led by civil engineering visualisation expert Soluis Group has received £1 million of funding from Innovate UK to develop a so-called Augmented Worker System (AWE) for the construction industry.

Aimed at enabling engineers to make the most of the Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools that are now widely used by the construction sector, the project hopes to replace paper or handheld devices with hands free heads-up augmented reality (AR) displays that would provide real time access to data, and enable greater collaboration between teams and partners.

The project, which will kick off in September 2017, will build on earlier work Soluis carried out with Laing O’Rourke on the development of an AR asset management tool, that was piloted at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station.

Notice that last sentence — this project builds on previous work developing asset management software. It is the handoff from the design and construction team to the facilities management team that really epitomizes the value of BIM in the built environment, in my opinion.

I predict that within 10 years, most major real estate portfolios will leverage BIM and augmented reality (AR) to manage facilities.

Once again, TechCrunch (a publication dedicated to covering startup companies in the world of technology) has the scoop on an app for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.

And from what I can tell, this app really is a major game changer. Here’s more:

For architects, complying with building codes means navigating labyrinthine layers of regulations that vary between municipalities. Sorting through different codes and keeping track of updates is a daunting task and, in a worst-case scenario, a mistake can cost thousands or even millions of dollars to tear out and fix. Firms that can afford it hire building code consultants, but a startup called UpCodes wants to make code compliance easier for all builders.

Founded last year by brothers Garrett and Scott Reynolds, UpCodes is currently taking part in Y Combinator. It now has more than 45,000 monthly active users and claims 11 percent growth week-over-week this year. Its app puts building regulations into one place, makes them searchable and adds collaboration tools so team members can research and share notes on projects.

This statement from Scott Reynolds really underscores why this is such a big deal:

“I came out of school where design is freeform and architecture is a very creative endeavor, then got into the workforce and realized how difficult the regulation atmosphere is to navigate,” says Scott. “I realized how difficult it was for me, my colleagues and individuals to understand those codes. It drove me to a point where architecture wasn’t enjoyable any longer.”

And this describes precisely the problem that exists in the built environment. We have all kinds of gifted technical minds working on improving the codes and standards that dictate how various assemblies should be installed. But getting that information into the hands of the tradespeople and draftsmen and other folks on the front lines — especially in a user-friendly format — is extremely difficult.

I hope that the folks at UpCodes are actively pursuing Spanish language translation to truly make this an effective tool for how the construction industry really works.

TechCrunch, as the name implies, is a technology-oriented publication that, as a self-professed geek, I’ve been reading since former practicing attorney Michael Arrington started it so many years ago.

But now I find myself in an interesting position where more and more the tech-oriented publications I read also feature content on companies in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Here is a recent TechCrunch article highlighting yet another disruptive tech company that just so happens to be firmly centered on improving life for folks working on the built environment:

The invoicing and payments process in the commercial construction industry is broken. It takes a median of about 70 days to get paid, which means contractors are often stuck without enough working capital. Net30, a startup in Y Combinator’s current batch, wants to solve that problem.

The platform lets construction companies handle invoices and then make online payments to contractors’ bank accounts. This digitizes a process that is still mostly paper-based (some invoices are still faxed and most payments are made by paper checks sent through snail mail). Net30 also has a feature that calculates early payment discounts. In fact, Net30’s founders, former commercial construction project managers Casey Bell and Anthony Cirinelli, originally built it as an early payments platform.

As the two talked to contractors, however, they realized it would take more to fix construction’s payment problem. The issue is so severe that delayed payments are one of the main reasons construction companies fail.

From a risk management perspective, Net30 is going after a critical aspect of doing business in the AEC industry. Here’s why: By far, the overwhelming majority of projects that end up in litigation first realize conflicts related to prompt payment. The contractor(s) eventually stop work due to non-payment, and then of course the owner turns around and claims that they shouldn’t have to pay the contractor because the work was defective, delayed, or both. Both sides continue to dig in their heals until litigation becomes all but unavoidable.

Solving payment issues would definitely reduce the number of construction claims. That is, if payment issues could truly be solved — something easier said than done, I believe.

David Kravets, writing for Ars Technica:

A judge on Thursday declared as unconstitutional a local Wisconsin ordinance mandating that the makers of augmented reality games get special use permits if their mobile apps were to be played in county parks. The law—the nation’s first of its kind—was challenged on First Amendment grounds amid concerns it amounted to a prior restraint of a game maker’s speech. What’s more, the law was seemingly impossible to comply with.

The federal lawsuit was brought by a Southern California company named Candy Lab. The maker of Texas Rope ‘Em—an augmented reality game with features like Pokemon Go—sued Milwaukee County after it adopted an AR ordinance in February in the wake of the Pokemon Gocraze. Because some of its parks were overrun by a deluge of players, the county began requiring AR makers to get a permit before their apps could be used in county parks.

The permitting process also demanded that developers perform the impossible: estimate crowd size, event dates, and the times when mobile gamers would be playing inside county parks. The permits, which cost as much as $1,000, also required that developers describe plans for garbage collection, bathroom use, on-site security, and medical services. Without meeting those requirements, augmented reality publishers would be in violation of the ordinance if they published games that included playtime in Milwaukee County parks.

Central to its position, Milwaukee County tried to argue that Augmented Reality apps were not protected by the First Amendment. Why?

Because according to the county, the game “does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games—mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection—Texas Rope ‘Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map.”

This is a preliminary injunction, and ultimately the matter will be determined in trial, currently not calendared until April of next year.

Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond shared the following:

Runnur, a mobile tech gear company, has developed a hands-free belt clip system for your tablet that’s perfect for construction professionals. The belt clip system attaches to the case you already own and allows you to store it on your hip, keeping your hands free, when it’s not in use.  Also included is a security cord, which keeps the tablet from hitting the ground if you accidentally drop it. The $99 belt clip is compatible with most tablets, but larger tablets like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro may need to upgrade to the beefier Tablet Tool Belt.

To give you an idea of what it looks like, here is a video:

This is so cool! Years ago, I was able to find a special pouch that would go on a standard tool belt that was meant for holding a clipboard, but could also hold an iPad. When performing back-to-back inspections all day long, especially when inspecting roofs or attics, being able to safely toss my iPad in the pouch to free up my hands was indispensable.

These days, I prefer to carry less stuff when performing inspections and thereby avoid the tacky looking tool belt — or worse: a fishing vest! — so I don’t expect to be purchasing this any time soon. However, if I found myself doing 40 hours of inspections a week again, this would be high on my list of priorities for both protecting my gear, as well as for improved ergonomics.