Data-driven design is increasingly being used to deliver future-ready infrastructure and improved sustainable outcomes. Saul Chambers, WSP Opus Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change Solutions, discusses how virtual reality (VR) is being used to promote sustainable concepts.
In recent years, VR has evolved from a gaming accessory to a multi-billion-dollar business tool. Surpassing the limitations of traditional, non-scaled visuals, VR allows us to better envision the unimaginable – now common in classrooms, boardrooms, hospitals and labs; it comes as no surprise that the VR industry is set to surpass US$40 billion by 2020.
The possibilities that VR does not only contribute a visual aid but can steer a more sustainable and resourceful product outcome has recently caught the attention of city planners, governors and policymakers.
Now, we are seeing an uptake of VR solutions being interwoven throughout the pre and post stages of a project's lifecycle.
VR for community engagement
In 2013, Aspire Katara Investment (AKI) relied on VR as a primary community engagement tool. The hotel operator employed Californian AR and VR agency, Eon Reality to assist with the unveiling of the Katara Cultural Village in Doha. Through an immersive Eon Icube mobile booth the VR experience engaged with key community members and stakeholders, offering a first-hand look of what was to come from the Katara site – whilst showcasing future development projects.
VR for sustainable practice
Research conducted in Europe took the potentials of VR further; focusing on real-time data to achieve more sustainable outcomes. Frost and Sullivan explored how early innovators are using open data to ultimately build the foundations for commercially sustainable services. By experimenting with 3D applications & satellite data, city planners have developed a suite of sustainable urban spaces and infrastructural solutions.
"Pairing satellite information with VR solutions is the future of smart urban planning – we have the capabilities of better envisioning how our urban infrastructure will perform and withhold against future forecasts. Today’s software offers a visual aid towards the testing and analysis of environmental, atmospheric and behavioural stimuli that will allow us to better determine how we should be building adaptable cities that are great places to live and work." says Saul.
VR for New Zealand’s urban planning
By 2020, VR in New Zealand is set to reach the $324 million value mark, while jobs in the field are expected to double. (nzvrara, 2017)
With over 3,800 companies listed in the VR/AR Association directory – New Zealand is not at a loss for sourcing experts.
We predict VR will play a supporting role in Auckland’s major redevelopment overhaul. In a recent 2018 Cities Index survey completed by WSP, Auckland joined Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, Stockholm and London as leaders for long-term strategic planning.
The Auckland Plan 2050 has movements in place to assist with Auckland’s predicted growth; with emphasis on four key directions to which councils and governments wish to thrive in. These include providing public spaces and places that are 'inclusive, accessible and contribute to urban living'; whilst improving housing availability. With multiple billion-dollar projects impending, VR will allow both project managers, decision makers and the community to visualize Auckland’s major infrastructural changes.
Recently developed apps like CityEngine and Smart Favela are assisting with this, by providing engineers with the potential to produce and modify VR 3D models in-house. With such software at hand, Saul believes that all engineering consultancies should have a respected VR team in place.
VR for visualising city planning rules
In 2015, Hamilton City Council (HCC) wanted the ability to visualise their district planning rules in 3D. HCC engaged with WSP Opus to develop a procedural rule that generated 3D models of buildable envelopes along with key metrics such as allowable buildable area, volume, virtual floor levels and floor area ratio.
Meeting the brief, we developed a tool that can go beyond visualization of existing planning rules to a simulation of conceptual rule changes. For example, procedural modelling allows virtual assessment of proposed planning zone changes and land development scenario planning, providing a rich visual way of engaging stakeholders, improving communication and assisting sustainable decision making.
WSP for VR
Leveraging the latest immersed technology solutions, WSP is currently developing VR tools to optimise project delivery and break down communication barriers. The project visualisation group in Denver has already produced large VR visuals of cities, including Seattle, New York and San Francisco –Next, is to back-up the visuals with data-driven intelligence to further delve into how should build our future cities.
WSP is one of the world’s leading engineering professional services consulting firms. We are dedicated to our local communities and propelled by international expertise. WSP brings clarity and vision to complex challenges. We see the future more clearly through key-trends in climate change, society, technology and resources. We challenge our staff to collaborate with clients to advise solutions that are both ready for today and the future.
Learn more about WSP Opus' work for Sustainability and Climate Change solutions.