A smARt viewer to watch the 3D BIM on-site

  • 15.03.2022
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smart viewer on-site

BIM file series @ STRABAG

By Frits Bonte, Digital Process Manager at STRABAG


STRABAG is a European technology partner for construction services, leading in innovation and capital strength. Their offer includes all areas of the construction industry and covers the entire construction value chain. They bring people, building materials, and equipment to the right place at the right time. As a result, they are familiar with various technologies that support all areas of the construction industry.

At the Digital Construction Day conference in Brussels, the presentation of Frits Bonte focused on the growing use of Augmented Reality for BIM in construction projects. We asked Frits to share with GenieVision a summary of the power of AR in construction projects, some caution notes, and why AR for BIM is the central smARt construction technology users need to be thinking about. Now and in the future.

The BIM approach at Strabag Belgium

At STRABAG Belgium, we take a pragmatic approach to our technology. By keeping it simple, or KISS, we can ensure successful adoption, successful use, and maximise the benefit of any technology we deploy. That approach applies to all we do, including BIM.

To us, BIM is the central technology for the digitalisation of the construction project, connecting on-site reality with a realistic model. Accessibility is critical because a project’s success requires that a wide variety of users and trades can access and use the BIM. That calls for a BIM that is easy to both integrate and access.

Creating this type of access and utilisation requires a common-sense approach and the right technology. We use a SaaS model to connect reality and hardware. And since recently, that also involves Augmented Reality (AR).

There is much talk about AR in the construction industry and our everyday lives. So, before we look at its uses in construction, let’s first start with a common definition of AR technology.

Simply put, augmented reality provides an image of reality to which elements are added by the computer or device. AR can include a combination of both real and virtual images. AR should be interactive, giving users the ability to respond in real-time. Finally, AR is three-dimensional, meaning that users can perceive the spatial elements.

No longer just a future vision, AR is all around us – you experience it in your daily routines like shopping, maps, and games. Google maps, for example, uses AR to put the viewer in the location they are seeking, guiding them down streets and around corners to their destination as if they were traveling the route themselves in person. Ikea users AR to help customers see what furniture will look like in their home; you can see how a new couch fits your living room without leaving your old couch.

It’s now time to bring AR into the world of construction.

Making smARt construction a reality

At STRABAG Belgium, we believe that Augmented Reality is the future of BIM.

In construction, AR visualises 3D BIM plans on a tablet at the click of an app, in real-time, and at a real scale. All team members can visualise plans at any time.

The hardware is connecting the site with the model via a SaaS platform.

AR holds to our KISS motto – it’s easy to implement and easy to use for everyone on the construction teams. But simple does not mean it isn’t a powerful technology.

Using a 3D BIM means site operators can verify the implementation and spot possible deviations quickly and easily. AR also lets users locate and visualise non-conformities more rapidly and communicate that visual information with other operators faster than previously possible.

So far, we have successfully deployed AR in demolition work, structural works, and techniques. We are also planning to use it in renovations and maintenance as soon as we get the chance. It works.

Good for the worksite, not perfect yet

The potential for AR is just beginning, and we believe it has more potential to optimise construction projects of all types. Still, for all its promise, AR is not perfect. Some areas need improvement.

For example, users need to be aware of drift – the potential for deviation in alignment between reality and virtual reality. Because measurements can deviate, technology needs to get smarter to avoid or correct deviations.

The good news is that these developments are happening. I’ve seen a quick evolution from 10cm to 1cm deviation – that is a swift and significant correction. I believe we will see more technical development happening in the future and that technology is evolving in a positive way.

For now, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Because while we need patience before we can achieve laser-like precision, we can make do with the technology we have today, which is more accurate and better than what we had in the past.

The KISS policy at STRABAG proves that the gradual introduction of AR technical developments accelerates their overall adoption process. Trust the process – let the solutions progressively build their added value for your services and team.

The time is now for Augmented Reality on the construction-site

To fully understand the value of AR, seeing is believing. And despite the potential for deviation, the benefits from using AR to capture and correct problems by taking immediate action far outweigh the possibility for deviation.

In summary, we can’t change reality – the technology is not perfect, but it is workable. And today, AR is a giant step forward in creating the smARt construction of the future.

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