Technology’s ever-increasing impact on the building industry was explored March 8, 2018 in the JBKnowledge Contech Roadshow, a daylong event at Texas A&M’s Francis Hall, the university’s home of construction science education.
The day featured a slate of leading construction professionals heading interactive discussions and demonstrations of the latest construction tech applications, as well as the public debut of the Department of Construction Science’s enhanced BIM CAVE — Building Information Modeling Computer-aided Virtual Environment — an immersive facility that transports users to virtual, richly detailed jobsites.
Throughout the day, event sponsors demonstrated project management, estimating, and drone technology in the Francis Hall lobby.
“This event maintained our position at the nexus of building industry education and technology,” said Patrick Suermann, head of the department. “More than ever, construction’s newest workers are expected to be tech proficient.”
The roadshow was co-hosted by JBKnowledge, a Bryan-based firm that develops technology solutions for construction and insurance companies, and the Texas A&M Department of Construction Science.
The day began with a 9 a.m. unveiling of major hardware and software upgrades to Francis Hall’s BIM CAVE, transformed into a more versatile tool for faculty and students, said Eric Du, assistant professor of construction science, who teamed with Julian Kang, associate professor of construction science, to achieve the facility’s improvements.
BIM renderings offer many advantages over 2-D drawings. For example, builders, architects, and engineers can virtually inspect a proposed structure’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems to prevent costly design errors.
As a result of Francis Hall’s BIM CAVE upgrades, users can now experience total immersion in a BIM rendering by donning a headset and, with new CAVE body tracking capabilities, virtually explore a project while a room full of students watches the user’s progress via a giant, composite image on the CAVE’s 36 monitors, each of which measures 46” diagonally.
“The new CAVE is capable of everything,” said Du. “In addition to running BIM software, users can now connect up to 10 devices to CAVE monitors and play any kind of file simultaneously.” This new capability provides users with the ability to display a BIM rendering while conducting a project presentation using Powerpoint and a separate construction scheduling program.
The system also supports renderings of special effects such as water leaks, fire, or explosions, which can be used in tandem with BIM renderings to develop immersive training modules for construction workers or firefighters.
Du and his BIM students, who are already taking advantage of the CAVE’s new capabilities in a class this spring, will demonstrate the facility’s new capabilities throughout the day.
A full slate of ConTech Roadshow presentations followed in four concurrent, 75-minute sessions.
“Students had the chance to network with top industry professionals after the presentations and at vendor demonstrations,” said James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge and a Texas A&M guest lecturer of construction science.
Among the event’s many lecture topics and speakers were:
The Texas A&M event is the first of this year’s five scheduled Roadshow stops; future events are scheduled in Seattle, Kansas City, Boston and Oakland.