Over the course of a month, virtual walk-throughs yielded more than 35 suggested changes to the facility. Photo by Mollie Shackleford
The hospital staff was given the opportunity to virtually walk through a highly realistic model of the rooms. Photo by Mollie Shackleford

3D Mockups with Virtual Reality at VCU Health System

DPR team uses virtual reality goggles to bring design mockups directly to doctors and nurses inside a working hospital

DPR Construction has broken ground using beta technology originally created for the video games industry for a major renovation project currently underway at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System (VCUHS).

Space constraints at VCUHS and limited availability of hospital staff prompted DPR to find a creative solution that would allow doctors, nurses and other professionals to review the design and layout of the 85,000-sq.-ft. renovation, scheduled for an early 2018 completion. That solution involved using Oculus Rift goggles to enable users to virtually walk through BIM mockups and provide feedback before construction began.

Team Players

CUSTOMER: The Virginia Commonwealth University Health System is an urban, comprehensive academic medical center in central Virginia established to preserve and restore health for all people, to seek the cause and cure of diseases through innovative research, and to educate those who serve humanity.

ARCHITECT: HKS Architects

PROJECT MANAGER: JLL

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The 85,000-sq.-ft. renovation includes 18 new operating rooms, an MRI suite, a pre- and post-operative care unit, an expanded waiting and reception area and all associated support spaces.
  • Creating an immersive virtual mockup using Oculus Rift cost just a fraction—less than 15%—of what was originally budgeted for a physical mockup.
  • The virtual walk-throughs yielded more than 35 suggested changes to the design and layout of the operating and post-operative recovery rooms.

DPR frequently builds physical mockups for hospital projects to enable end users to understand how the finished space will function and suggest improvements. These full-scale models are typically built in unused space on the project site or in a nearby warehouse. Occasionally, DPR uses BIM to create virtual mockups in a computer assisted virtual environment (CAVE), which users can view on multiple large screens. This system can be more costly and requires a significant amount of time and space.

Using physical or CAVE mockups were not workable options at VCUHS. The renovation, which includes 18 new operating rooms, an MRI suite, a pre- and post-operative care unit, an expanded waiting and reception area and all associated support spaces, must occur while the hospital’s 14 existing operating rooms remain functional. Located in downtown Richmond on a tight site, the hospital did not have surplus space and could not find appropriate and convenient space nearby.

Creating an immersive virtual mockup using Oculus Rift cost just a fraction—less than 15%—of what was originally budgeted for a physical mockup, according to Justin Schmidt, a DPR BIM manager. Avoiding the expense of both renting space and transporting hospital staff to and from an off-site location more than made up for the cost of the hardware and programming required.

Given the portability of the Oculus Rift system, user feedback sessions could be set up at a moment’s notice in hospital break rooms, during gatherings and at offices, allowing staff to do virtual walk-throughs of the space. Over the course of a month, these virtual walk-throughs yielded more than 35 suggested changes to the operating and post-operative recovery rooms, including adding storage space and power and data outlets, moving various wall mounted equipment and reducing the size of furnishings.

“Because we are working in a Level 1 trauma center, nurses and doctors work 24/7, and DPR made sure we got all comments by scheduling multiple viewings of the mockup during all hours of the day and night,” said Michael Fievet, a senior project manager at JLL, VCUHS’s representative.

Yet getting some users to move beyond Oculus Rift’s “wow factor” to offer constructive feedback proved challenging at times, Mollie Shackleford, a DPR project engineer, admitted. “Everyone was amazed at how realistic the model was, and loved the science fiction feel of the headset,” she said.

“The technology fascinated the users,” Fievet said. “The hospital staff appreciated the opportunity to virtually walk through the rooms and look to see the actual location of the patient and how it related to the placement of lights, booms, monitors and equipment.”

“Long term, DPR sees this technology as a bridge to connect BIM efforts to improving real-world environments,” said Schmidt. “We’ve even begun combining the Oculus Rift with other sensor-driven technologies, which allows users to further interact with the environment, such as grabbing and moving light booms, rolling patient beds through corridors or showing the reach distance for a surgeon—all things that end users do every day.”

 

 

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