Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Virtual design reality for Europe’s construction industry


The large number of parties that must collaborate on construction projects presents difficulties in communicating building design information, but DIVERCITY’s design-simulation software utilising virtual reality technology promises significant cost reductions to Europe’s construction industry.

Construction has become an information-intensive industry, with the excessive number of documents during construction projects resulting in processing errors when data is not properly managed. Under current approaches to information management, there are significant barriers to communication between all the stakeholders involved (e.g. clients, professional teams, contractors, local authorities, residents, workers). Recent research by industry specialists suggests that these barriers of communication, networking, integration and information sharing pose the major challenges for the industry over the next ten years.

A toolkit for construction

The IST programme-funded DIVERCITY project seeks to address these challenges with the development of a toolkit comprising six software applications that allows users to collaboratively and interactively visualise and simulate aspects of a project during briefing, design and scheduling. These include: client briefing, acoustics, lighting, thermal and constructability simulations, and site analysis. These applications can be used independently, or simultaneously, as part of a stand-alone activity, or integrated collaborative process throughout the project lifecycle, thereby empowering clients and integrating stakeholder activities within a collaborative workspace.

As the Client Briefing work package leader Rob Aspin, a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Salford’s Future Workspaces Research Centre (FWRC), explains, clear communication from the onset of a project is key to successful construction, but also one of the biggest obstacles. "Research has shown that the client briefing stage of the project lifecycle is vitally important to get right as it has a dramatic effect on the whole of the construction lifecycle. However, clients and potential users of the building often find it difficult to portray their requirements for a new facility to the design team," says Aspin, adding: "DIVERCITY aims to ease this difficulty by developing a virtual design workspace that enables clients, users and the design team to communicate their ideas to each other in a more understandable format."

The workspace contains a set of tools that allow the development of a graphical building program, describing the semantics of the proposed building. This model, Aspin explains, allows the client and designer to consider the spatial needs and relationships, and define them in a manner that makes them more accessible to the later stages in the design process.

An added dimension to design

From the structured building program spatial layouts are developed. These represent conceptual sketches of the building form, developed in a 3D-modelling environment. "Because these models are developed from the building program, analysis of the matching between clients’ requirements and the conceptual design is possible, providing designers with quantitative measures that aid in refining the initial design," he says. After the layout has sufficient detail the user is able to export the ’space layout’ file to a CAD application to enable the design to be taken further.

Current construction project information is already captured in 2D CAD drawings - along with text documents - and shared electronically, but problems arise when the volume of documents and drawings and their versions increases. DIVERCITY’s integrated approach involves a project information board that requires information used by all stakeholders to be entered only once, and its 3D interactive visualisation applications means much of the project information can be presented in a visual format rather than text. Users can thus visualise the most appropriate configuration of spaces within a building or site, and explore ’what-if’ simulations of the acoustic, thermal, and lighting properties in a 3D environment to make time and cost savings when the project reaches the ’real’ site. During the construction stages of the project the DIVERCITY toolkit further supports users by supporting site planning and construction sequence planning and tracking through 3D interactive visual tools that graphically communicate the site configuration and building program.

Currently the DIVERCITY platform is comprised of six modules supported by an extensible integration and collaboration framework that can be used to bind additional services within the DIVERCITY workspace.

The client briefing, commonly referred to as Pre-CAD, and Site Planning modules, developed by the University of Salford’s Future Workspaces Research Centre are being used to support further EU funded research activities within projects such as INTELCITIES that aim to expand the range of functionalities to encompass urban planning tasks. The simulator modules for design review activities such as the acoustic and thermal simulators developed by consortium member CSTB and the lighting simulator developed by consortium member CSSI now present stable tools, with the acoustic simulator again being extended to support the demands of urban planning within the FP6 IST project, INTELCITIES. The 4D Modelling tools, entitled Visual Project Chronology, developed by project member VTT are currently being applied to support ongoing national research programmes.

DIVERCITY applications are currently available for use on a consultancy basis and to support ongoing research activity in both EU and national programmes that seek to extend the range and scope of the applications into wider domains such as urban planning. With Europe’s construction industry accounting for 11 per cent of the region’s GDP comprising 2.4 million companies (83 per cent of which are SMEs) employing 8.8 million people directly and 26 million indirectly in Europe alone, the project sees significant potential for these systems to support better collaboration and achieve greater client satisfaction.

Rob Aspin
Position Developer
Centre for Virtual Environments
University of Salford
University Road
Salford M5 4WT
United Kingdom
Tel: +44-161-2952932
Fax: +44-161-2952925

Tara Morris | IST Results
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Machines learn how to learn
01.12.2015 | Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Tübingen site, Tübingen

nachricht Worldwide glacier information system to go
30.11.2015 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>