Virtual reality as a visualisation tool: benefits and constraints
Whyte, J. (2001) Virtual reality as a visualisation tool: benefits and constraints. International Journal of IT in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (IT-AEC), 2 (4). pp. 216-224. (special issue 'Visualisation in architecture, engineering and construction')
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The benefits and applications of virtual reality (VR) in the construction industry have been investigated for almost a decade. However, the practical implementation of VR in the construction industry has yet to reach maturity owing to technical constraints. The need for effective information management presents challenges: both transfer of building data to, and organisation of building information within, the virtual environment require consideration. This paper reviews the applications and benefits of VR in the built environment field and reports on a collaboration between Loughborough University and South Bank University to overcome constraints on the use of the overall VR model for whole lifecycle visualisation. The work at each research centre is concerned with an aspect of information management within VR applications for the built environment, and both data transfer and internal data organisation have been investigated. In this paper, similarities and differences between computer-aided design (CAD) and VR packages are first discussed. Three different approaches to the creation of VR models during the design stage are identified and described, with a view to providing sharing understanding across the interdiscipliary groups involved. The suitable organisation of building information within the virtual environment is then further investigated. This work focused on the visualisation of the degradation of a building, through its lifespan, with the view to provide a visual aid for developing an effective and economic project maintenance programme. Finally consideration is given to the potential of emerging standards to facilitate an integrated use of VR. The convergence towards similar data structures in VR and other construction packages may enable visualisation to be better utilised in the overall lifecycle model.