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The Singaporean startup breaking down walls in the construction industry with virtual reality


Fri, 03/31/2023 - 12:00


VRcollab is helping companies optimise resources and deepen collaboration with all stakeholders – even those without a construction industry background. 

As the global architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry seeks ever-smarter, more efficient ways to design and develop construction projects, Business Information Modelling (BIM) has been widely embraced as a transformative methodology.  

Since its emergence in the 1970s, BIM has been giving AEC companies a way to create a 3D mock-up of a building that incorporates data from all construction project stakeholders, from architects to real estate owners. Modelling captured data in this way can help the stakeholders create more accurate plans, correct design flaws early on and control costs more efficiently across construction project lifecycles. 

But despite BIM’s benefits, barriers to adoption remain. Project stakeholders generally require specialised training in BIM’s sophisticated technology and data consolidation processes before they can take advantage of its benefits.  

That’s where VRcollab comes in.  

Since launching in 2016, the Singapore-based technology startup has developed a way to use VR technology to turn BIM data into easy-to-navigate 3D visualisations that are simpler to use even for the untrained.  

“Let’s take the example of a hospital construction project,” says VRcollab’s chief executive officer and co-founder Ryan Liew. “As doctors and nurses are also stakeholders here, they’d need to be consulted on design – they need clear lines of sight everywhere to maintain patient safety, for example. But because traditional BIM software can be quite complex to navigate, they may have trouble accessing relevant data. Our tools provide a more visual approach, so they eliminate that problem. We ensure people without BIM training or even an AEC background can quickly grasp crucial design issues regardless of their technical know-how.”  

Enhancing BIM’s viability for all stakeholders

VRcollab’s VR-enhanced software products offer construction project stakeholders the ability to visualise a structure and interact with it by walking virtually within its walls, long before a single brick is laid.  

Experiencing a building through an immersive, three-dimensional walk-through makes it much easier to plan and check cross-functional design details, such as the angle at which doors will swing, the brightness of the lighting, or whether a space can accommodate those with disabilities.  

VRcollab Coordinate™ is a tool that allows many stakeholders to access a design, navigate and mark out issues that are digitally captured into a shared database.  


“We enable clients to import their BIM data into our software. Then, our algorithms get to work, automatically processing that data to create an immersive VR environment of the client’s proposed structure – be that a residential dwelling or a railway station,” explains Liew. 

From there, multiple project stakeholders – regardless of their skillsets or geographical location – can review the design plan by donning a VR headset and navigating their way around the virtual structure.  

“That way, they can gather metadata they just won’t get via a 3D model on a PC screen. It’s a bit like doing an x-ray of a building and being able to see all its veins and arteries, so improvements can be made from the inside out. That’s more important than just getting the building to look good on the outside, and especially vital on engineering-heavy projects that rely on the accurate exchange of large volumes of complex data,” Liew reports.  



(left) A screenshot of VRcollab’s X-ray Ray Render mode that reveals the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering of the building. (Right) VRcollab’s Section Cut tool allows users to slice through models to reveal any fundamental issues.


Redefining project communication and collaboration

If planners detect potential spatial issues and design limitations during a VR session, they can note them by wielding motion-tracked handheld controllers. “Changes to the design plan can be annotated by simply pointing in the right direction and clicking. Then, after the session, our software automatically generates a document containing those annotations so a revised BIM 3D model can quickly be created,” says Liew.  

This collaborative review process can be repeated at any stage, allowing rapid iteration of the plan until an optimal result is achieved.