Pandemic Prompts Reliance on VR in Construction

By Dan Hounsell
April 26, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare facilities managers to adapt nearly every process and operation in which they were involved, and that includes the review of construction mock-ups.

In late 2019, the building team behind Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Va., didn’t know that virtual reality mock-ups that users could walk through with a headset would be key to its $300 million hospital expansion project, according to Engineering News-Record.

At the time, the hospital board was asking Robins & Morton to construct traditional physical mock-ups of patient rooms and operating rooms so that doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel could tell project managers exactly what they needed to do their jobs.

After the COVID-19 pandemic made traveling and meeting impossible for the Nashville-based design team of Earl Swensson & Associates, several of Robins & Morton's project team members from throughout the southeast and even hospital personnel, the virtual reality (VR) mock-ups that were delivered by Chicago-based virtual design and construction consultant VIATechnik became critical to the project.

While Robins & Morton had done VR mock-ups before, these had to be able to fully replace physical mock-ups. The experience had to be real enough that hospital staff could recommend changes to headwalls and other placements just from seeing the environment in VR.

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