Builders Without Borders

by Balfour Beatty

The use of Virtual Reality (VR) is central to Balfour Beatty’s digital innovation strategy and an increasingly hot topic in the construction industry. Following the success of Balfour Beatty’s 2016 global Virtual Reality (VR) storm—a rapid collaborative sharing session—we have been steadily expanding our VR capabilities and implementation to benefit our clients and projects.

To drive further awareness and use of our growing expertise, Balfour Beatty teams from across the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong recently participated in the company’s inaugural global VR webinar. During this collaborative, knowledge-sharing session, participants learned about four key areas of VR exploration that are currently being leveraged by different Balfour Beatty projects around the globe:

VR for safety and training: Our UK team has created a temporary works training environment for excavation and formwork as well as a training feature focused on safely managing the interface of people, plants, and vehicles.

VR for design and construction planning: On US projects, VR has been successfully utilized for design and construction planning. This technology helps our teams more effectively communicate deliverables to customers for validation and input in an immersive and easily understood environment. Gammon has also deployed VR in design and logistics planning for construction sites in Hong Kong.

VR on mobile devices: A wide range of options exist for mobile VR usage. Among the benefits they can offer include enhanced visualization of projects, opportunities for improved induction training, and the “virtually there” concept, which allows users to view live 360° images or video capture on project sites remotely. Balfour Beatty teammates have even created company-branded mobile VR glasses for clients to further their understanding of our capabilities.

Future trends in VR: Our teammates are currently exploring several trial VR applications, including Google Earth for site overview briefings, mixed/augmented reality using Microsoft HoloLens, and the use of VR for driving simulation and Artificial Intelligence vehicles.

Success becomes a reality 

As Chief of Innovation and co-coordinator of the event Mark Konchar points out, the takeaways from an event like this transcend traditional knowledge-sharing. “Routine collaboration sessions such as this continue to add value, trigger unique relationships, and spur new ways of working. Ever since our team convened in the fall of 2016 for our global VR storm, we have seen our use cases for VR across the business expansion along with our capabilities to deliver VR-related services to our teams and clients.” 

Balfour Beatty’s global VR capabilities are increasing so rapidly that plans for a follow-up webinar are already in the works. As we continue to strengthen the breadth and depth of our experience in this exciting field, providing opportunities for ongoing education and training as well as platforms for dialogue exchange will remain the central pillars of our differentiation strategy.