Construction used to be considered an industry of blood, sweat and hammers. But today, the business is increasingly as much about digital devices as it is drywall. This is especially true for Windover Construction in Beverly, which uses virtual reality, augmented reality, laser scanning and drone mapping to design and build projects. Amr Raafat, Windover’s director of virtual design and construction, chatted with us about how the company uses new digital tools and gadgets.
How does Windover use drones in construction? Our drones are mainly used to inspect hard-to-reach areas on-site and to capture survey-grade 3D models of buildings and topography. We use them on a case, for example, where there is a very high roof and we want to inspect it. … We can use a drone safely and, in 10 minutes, we can get all the information we need.
How about virtual reality? For years, we’ve been using virtual reality to create very accurate models. We show clients how the building would look in a very immersive environment, so there are no surprises when the building is built. … When we were working on a private college outside of Boston recently, we had the clients walk through the space [in a virtual tour] and they said, “This counter is very narrow. We should widen it,” and the client selected all the materials and wall colors. There is no way you can sense that in 2D.
Is there a recent project you’re really proud of? The new academic center at Endicott College. We used drone technology to track construction progress, virtual reality … and mixed reality … which overlays a 3D hologram model over the existing conditions of the site. We were able to walk in the site before the construction had started and see building elements that would be built nine weeks from then. We were seeing it now on-site, as a hologram. This helped us see how things would really fit on site.