CH2M 3D Virtual Reality Tools Bring Revolutionary Improvement to Global Project Design
DENVER – CH2M was recently presented with a challenge from a strategic global client: “Show us something completely new and innovative in engineering design and delivery.” The firm jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate some of the its latest innovative and client-centric solutions in virtual reality design technology.
CH2M has developed a highly effective approach for leveraging affordable and readily available virtual reality (VR) viewers and the latest VR hardware as it hits the market. These include viewing technologies such as Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. CH2M experts quickly tailor these tools to the needs of specific projects to radically accelerate the process for developing and reviewing design concepts by colleagues, clients and constructors.
The company has created a “CH2M VR Design Review Kit” – a fully contained design review tool that can be shipped to clients allowing them to participate in collaborative, multi-user reviews to envision project developments CH2M can deliver. These kits are contained in a fitted hard case that holds smartphones, VR headsets and Bluetooth controllers. Each phone has its own email address and Box.com account which allows model updates to be quickly, easily and securely shared with multiple reviewers anywhere in the world.
“By just turning on a phone, starting up the model and inserting the phone into the headset, team members are automatically connected to a secure control server which allows them to see each other and anyone else who is in the model whether on a PC, an Oculus Rift headset or another smartphone,” said Mitchell Hamm, CH2M engineering manager.
CH2M is actively working with technology developers and testing new products to continuously refine the quality and cost-effectiveness of its VR review technology. Through the application of this approach, CH2M design teams are demonstrating dramatic advantages in project cost and schedule savings to clients. Until now, 3D models have typically been reviewed in rooms equipped with expensive computer and projection equipment support. This conventional approach requires specialized technicians to prepare the model files and operate these systems, and also requires participants to physically gather in a review room. For these reasons, 3D design review sessions have traditionally involved costs related to travel and other delays associated with physically assembling reviewers in a common location.
CH2M’s innovative use of VR technology has markedly reduced the cost and duration of design review cycles, which can now economically take place every few days versus a period of months. In only a few hours, the CH2M approach can prepare a 3D VR model to view on smartphones and computers. By using a video game creation engine, the models transition to an immersive 3D world that can host a dispersed virtual review team, regardless of location.
In addition to vastly improved convenience, this approach has improved the quality of the design process by giving design teams earlier awareness of needed corrections. Changes are much easier and less expensive to make early in the design process rather than when they are found during construction.
CH2M VR Review Kits are currently being used to support CH2M projects in Europe, Asia and the U.S. A global consumer products corporation has been using CH2M VR Design Review Kits to make “deep dives” into aspects of their engineering models that are difficult to visualize on a traditional 3D review screen. This has allowed questions about material and personnel flow, maintenance access, safety, and intelligent use of space to be more easily answered as clients and engineers enter the model together and walk through these areas in real-life scale.
“Our clients have responded very enthusiastically to this new revolution in design-sharing technology,” said Michael Glenn, Senior VP, CH2M Global Client Solutions. “But these tools are about much more than creating a ‘wow factor.’ It’s about creating a better collaborative experience and a better overall project outcome for everyone involved – clients, designers, and contractors.”
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CH2Mleads the professional services industry delivering sustainable solutions benefiting societal, environmental and economic outcomes with the development of infrastructure and industry. In this way, CH2Mers make a positive difference providing consulting, design, engineering and management services for clients in water; environmentand nuclear; transportation; energyandindustrial markets, from iconic infrastructure to global programs like the Olympic Games. Ranked among the World’s Most Ethical Companies and top firms in environmental consulting and program management, CH2M in 2016 became the first professional services firm honored with the World Environment Center Gold Medal Award for efforts advancing sustainable development. Connect with CH2M at www.ch2m.com; LinkedIn; Twitter; and Facebook.