Victoria University (VU) researchers have developed two technologies to modernise the Australian construction industry: a construction simulator with virtual reality (VR) called COSI, and a cloud-based platform for building inspections.

With the help of a construction simulator (COSI) trainees can use high-tech goggles and equipment to enter a detailed simulation of a construction site to learn about safety, while the cloud-based platform allows for photographs and 360-degree scans of a building to be uploaded and accessed remotely in real-time, improving the inspection process – a big change from learning it through an instruction booklet or computer modules.

Head of VU’s Built Environment, Professor Zora Vrcelj, and Head of VU’s Information Technology, Professor Yuan Miao, with their teams have combined high-tech tools with engineering and architecture to improve safety training in the construction profession – which has one of the highest rates of preventable accidents and deaths of any sector in Australia.

The simulator lets users learn to climb ladders, move equipment, work in a confined space, or walk along narrow scaffolding, without any real risk.

Already city councils, construction giants like Simonds Homes, and even the Victorian Building Authority – the state’s chief industry regulator – have expressed interest. 

Professor Vrcelj said the project would help modernise the construction industry, which is currently among the least digitised industries in Australia, leading to high rates of worksite injuries, a lack of quality control and inefficiencies.

CEO of the Builders Academy Australia, Simonds Group, Andrew Shea, said training workers via simulated experiences would make a real difference to a worker’s learning and have a “genuine positive impact.”

The researchers are also helping to modernise the profession of building surveying. Traditionally, surveyors conduct mandatory inspections of buildings during construction with a clipboard and a checklist, as they assess the framework, electrics, plumbing, and design of a building.

“The surveyor comes, checks that everything is up to code, ticks the boxes, then leaves. But if something changes that affects the build before the next inspection, no one has any idea what’s been done or where the alterations have been made,” Professor Vrcelj said.

Instead, the VU researchers have developed a cloud-based platform where photographs and 360-degree scans of the building are uploaded, and can be accessed remotely in real time from a smartphone or iPad.

“This means there are chains of evidence when things go wrong, but more importantly, early opportunities to prevent defects from happening in the first place,” Professor Vrcelj said.

Feature image: COSI being used to learn about safety. Provided by Victoria University.

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