Virtual Reality

Texas A&M Creates New Virtual Environment for Building Information Modeling

Texas A&M University has created a new computer-aided virtual environment for building information modeling (BIM) that lets construction science students view immersive 3-D models of their building plans.

The university's new virtual environment, called the BIM CAVE, is located in Francis Hall and features three-dozen 46-inch monitors and a rendering system that uses nine computers to synchronize the 3-D images across all 36 monitors. According to a news report from the university, the BIM CAVE lets users "take a virtual stroll through a project and even go through its walls to inspect the structure's mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems."

Students in Texas A&M's building information modeling course use BIM software, called Revit, to create 3-D models of buildings and then import their Revit models into NavisWorks 3-D design review software. Julian Kang, associate professor of construction science, who teaches the building information modeling class, led a group of graduate students to create a computer program that synchronizes the images across the BIM CAVE's 36 monitors and lets students quickly render models in NavisWorks or other applications.

"The 3-D image is so large it feels as if you're actually inside the model," said Kang in a prepared statement.

"Builders are increasingly using BIM because of the many advantages it has over 2-D paper drawings," stated a news report from the university. Those advantages include increased collaboration between architects, builders and engineers, and early detection of design errors.

Texas A&M opened its first BIM CAVE facility in fall 2011 at the Langford Architecture Center. That facility features 12 monitors and is still in use.

The university received a gift of $500,000 from Satterfield & Pontikes Construction to help fund the new BIM CAVE.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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