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Making the Leap to Virtual Reality in Facility Management

VR or Virtual Reality is a hot topic these days. Even though it is predominately used in the gaming industry, VR is going to make a huge impact on the way we maintain and manage facilities.

What was once a visual phenomenon almost exclusively found in sci-fi novels and Hollywood is now becoming a tangible reality. Virtual Reality (VR) as a broad topic can be found hundreds of years ago. The concept was first addressed in panoramic paintings from the 1800s in the hopes of providing a new perspective. Now, we found a way to give it a modernized twist that bends and twists our physical realm with only a couple tools.

With the help of a little human ingenuity, we have made small systems capable of incredible power. Not only is this equipment incredibly powerful, it can be incredibly affordable. With the price tag at a reasonable level, easy access to software and creativity; our facilities have an innovative future ahead.

Virtual Reality in Facility Management

Virtual Reality is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment. This equipment can be a type of headwear with a screen, or even a combination of headwear with sensor integrated gloves. One thing to note, VR and Augmented Reality (AR) can sometimes be interchangeable or mistaken depending on who you are speaking with.

Not every implication of VR means incredibly mind altering points of view or a good case of motion sickness. Currently, there are facilities already implementing some level of virtual reality into their facility maintenance and management. Creating 3D renderings of your building space has never been easier. Tools like SketchUp make beautiful renderings easy to help tell the story of your buildings and are extremely user friendly. If you're looking for an example of something a little more high-level, look no further than Revizto. Revizto is a nifty system that can integrate your BIM files and diagrams with some of the leading gadgets in the VR world such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

This integration can now give you a virtual map of your entire facility for you to explore and document in your office space. Normally we would have to scroll and click and scroll and click on our desktop to access and view this information. With emerging technology we are able to simulate an experience in our facilities like never before.

Facility Management Software for Simulation

Where does the bridge exist between VR and our facilities? How can we find a way to connect the two in an enjoyable application that helps with the future? The answer lies in BIM. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that equips architecture, engineering, and construction professionals with the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

VR uses this information and creates a way for users to interact with it in a similar way to playing with legos as a kid. A 3D representation is constructed around you for a fuller perspective with a focus on immersion and presentation of information. This is advantageous in facilities because we can simulate and translate the problems we run into with more than just a paper report. Our occupants and advisors can get a glimpse of the physical realm we work with.

Much like the gif below of Microsoft's HoloLens project showcasing Minecraft, we are already finding ways to creatively showcase structures. Although these structures dont physically exist, they help present the story of our buildings and can be used by multiple users if provided enough equipment. It will also provide an extra level of fun to the workplace!

Virtual Reality Optimizes Facility Maintenance Management

Now that you have a program up and running to set your facility up for VR integration, what comes next? Using VR with your building's information gives your team the ability to troubleshoot problems remotely, instead of walking to every piece of equipment. Virtual Reality teamed up with a proficient asset mapping software will be your new favorite way to analyze and diagnose your building's equipment.

Imagine now, as you sit (or stand) and read this, that you could look around and see what is inside those walls or ceiling tiles. At any given moment, you could view the guts of your facility information in an intriguing and informative way. 

It's strange to think that implementing a level of VR could make the job of Facility Management seem more "natural". You and your team could be walking visual encyclopedias that contain every trick, note and photo of your buildings at any moment.

Predictions for VR in Facility Management

Throughout the past couple decades we have seen VR/AR equipment come blazing in... and fizzle out. Now, however, it seems to have found the right dash on the modern timeline and it will stick around. Some of the largest leaders in tech are funneling billions into the progression of VR technology in the hopes of integrating a level of "new reality" into everything we can.

There are companies like Unimersiv who have already proven that VR can be used to teach and present in a meaningful way. They have a couple immersive experiences with things such as the Athenian Acropolis or the International Space Station. If they can pull of something like that, I think it will be incredibly easy for us to transition facility management down the same path.

Want to learn more about BIM in preparation for the future of facility modeling? Maybe one day your facility will become a virtual playground.

Looking for additional information on BIM and how it works within facility management? Check out the guide below on building information modeling.
Download - BIM vs. Old File Systems

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