CoSci unveils new BIM CAVE immersive visualization facility

In a darkened room on the fourth floor of Texas A&M’s Langford Architecture Center, construction science students using Building Information Modeling software can navigate through the bowels of a virtual building while visually immersed amid an array of 12 46 inch monitors.

Unveiled at an Oct. 10 ribbon cutting event, the Department of Construction Science's newest facility, the “BIM-CAVE,” provides a unique high-tech vantage point for viewing details of an imagined building and its infrastructure, including heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, plumbing, electrical and other systems. “BIM CAVE” is an acronym for “Building Information Modeling Computer-Aided Virtual Environment.”

Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin attending the BIM-CAVE unveiling, which included a demonstration of the innovative immersive visualization technology by Julian Kang, holder of the History Maker Homes Endowed Professorship. The event also featured a discussion on the application of BIM technology in the construction industry by George A. Pontikes Jr., president and CEO of Satterfield and Pontikes Construction, Inc., and a client perspective on BIM by Vergel L. Gay, director of facilities and planning for the Texas A&M University System.

Following the presentations, Kang led tours of the BIM-CAVE and lab, located on the 4th floor of the Langford A building.

The new facility allows viewers to immerse themselves in multiscreen BIM simulations powered by three powerful computers using standard BIM software, such as Revit. Potential image distortion on the left and right banks of the viewing array is controlled by software developed by civil engineering graduate students Adithya Ganapathi and Hussam Nseir with guidance from Kang.

The new 12-display array, realized by a $50,000 gift from the Department of Construction Science Industry Advisory Council, is the second version of the immersive visualization system. The first iteration, a three-screen setup, was created with discretionary funds from the College of Architecture.

Kang said the new facility has already captured the attention of two construction companies engaged in campus building projects that wish to use the BIM CAVE for coordination meetings with subcontractors.

“This will give us a good chance to see how the CAVE can be utilized by industry,” said Kang.

Among Kang’s research objectives, he said, is to understand how a virtual environment can enhance the decisions of construction professionals.

“Aided by this technology, I believe their decision making will be a little bit different than if they were working in a real environment. We want to learn,” he said, “what those differences might be and how they can be used to advance construction activities.”

The BIM CAVE, he said, will also be available to assist the work of construction science graduate students working on BIM simulations.

posted October 6, 2011