Why VR, Why Now Episode 2 Recap - Suffolk Construction

Posted by Sam Al-Mutawa on Jun 23, 2020

We’re back with the second installment of our latest webinar series! In this series, we host professionals to discuss and showcase how they are utilizing VR to meet their business needs, from coordination and construction design review to manufacturing and training use cases.

For our second webinar in the series, we brought Construction Solutions Director Erin Khan from Suffolk to join our CEO, Shane Scranton. Suffolk is a national construction firm, made up of 10 full service offices across the United States, with 7 featuring Construction Lab (CoLabs). Erin oversees the SoCal region, covering technology initiatives helping to integrate these various hardware and software technologies into job sites and offices, making them available to teams for presentations, design reviews, and everything in between. Click here to watch the full episode!

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation about how VR is helping Suffolk keep distributed teams productive and working together using VR, and why is the perfect time to do so.

Starting with BIM, there is Unlimited Potential

One fact that Khan pointed out about the construction industry specifically, is that jobs are becoming increasingly complex over time, with more demands in terms of reducing cost and timelines, all while productivity across the industry is actually still declining.

With that in mind, it’s clear that technology is the way forward, and will help pave the future on how they approach the build environment. It’s the preeminent way to build trust, and deliver value throughout the entire lifecycle of a build - helping discover errors earlier and deliver on time, Khan said. 

This is especially true when you’re at a firm that embraces technology like Suffolk, and have made the commitment to always start in 3D and BIM, enabling teams to work natively in that environment they’ve already created, knowing there are innumerable workflows and deliverables and advantages to be had starting with a source model.

Talking about real direct value to be had right now, how about reducing travel & the need to meet in person? Leveraging collaboration in remote environments helped Suffolk minimize downtime: “It was incredible to see how not hard it was to transition, because we did have all this infrastructure set up. Especially with people just knowing that we are a tech savvy company and have resources that are of course available to help support anybody… It’s really just driving people to be natural innovators, problem solvers, and technology adopters.” said Khan.

When Working Digitally, Problems Get Solved Earlier

While great for presentations, there is tremendous value bringing VR into a project as early as possible, a notion several project teams expressed to Khan after they got the chance to begin using technology like IrisVR’s Prospect to solve problems daily on projects already deep in the design process. “When giving some tours... with IrisVR in particular, it’s been incredible to see some of the suggestions or things that will come out very early on in the project that we never would have thought of before, or will just catch ahead of time… and also showcase to owners what their space will look like, ahead of time.” Khan said

Both Khan and Scranton were in complete agreement on one thing that kept coming up;- solving problems digitally before you get to the field is “really really key,” and one of the biggest advantages of VR for design review and collaboration.

Speaking specifically to ROI, admittedly it can sometimes be hard to quantify because you’re often asking yourself questions retroactively about costs you would have incurred,Kahn explained, though Suffolk does query specific data points regularly: “Did you have savings? Did you avoid rework? What would have been those costs? It’s also the teams time - to solve different problems and go through regular processes.”

Q&A Takeaways

Here are a few key points based off of questions from our webinar participants: 

  • Since in person meetings will be avoided wherever possible for some time, VR provides a highly effective way to continue to collaborate and bring job sites into a digital realm.
  • Socializing the tech with the team and consciously driving adoption reinforces the idea that this is a normal type of thing for people to use.
  • Quest is driving down barriers to entry and up adoption of VR, particularly for teams thinking “how does everyone have an individual headset.”
  • VR is effective at every stage of design, from catching error early, to coordination meetings, to showcasing to owners and stakeholders their buildings really early on.
  • AR technology shows promise for the future, especially for things like QA/QC and overlaying digital models onto real job sites.
  • ROI is largely quantifiable in terms of things that are avoided, and time that is saved.
  • Catching errors digitally before/without stepping foot on a job site is a huge advantage of VR.
  • Having this infrastructure set up helped avoid down time, and being a tech savvy company lets people know there are resources available.

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