Project: Building safely by design

Peer reviewed and published

This project was submitted on 22/01/2014, published on 25/11/2013 by IOSH, and peer reviewed by IOSH

The aim of this project was to identify effective modes of interaction between designers, construction design and management (CDM) co-ordinators and builders, in which they collaborate – with the aid of a virtual reality (VR) tool as a catalyst for their conversation – to design safe construction processes. The objectives were to develop a method for assessing the safety implications of a detailed design model of a building; develop immersive and augmented visualisation techniques for use in this assessment; and trial the process with construction workers on a construction project.

At the University of Reading, a digital laboratory was set up, and strategies were developed for visualising models and recording collaborations. Interactions with experienced industrial partners informed the research design – this evolved from the original plan. Experiments were conducted with both industry partners and graduate students.

Using the immersive environment, experienced safety professionals discussed hazards relating to a crane, a roof, edge protection, voids, stairs, scaffolding and cladding. Through interaction with the model, these professionals were able to understand the constraints of the building and the site. They drew attention to a broader set of alternative construction methods than graduate students.

The experiments highlight the practical challenges of building safely by design, as well as the potential of visualisation using 3D stereo displays. The experiments also suggest that rich models are needed which direct attention to relevant aspects and allow professionals to probe and discover further contextual information about the project, and to see it within the context of the site.

As building information modelling (BIM) becomes widely used in construction, it raises new opportunities and questions about how digital models can be used to build safely by design. This study suggests a new trajectory of research on digital tools that fosters mindful practices, and the rich interactions associated with these practices. Further research is underway to extend this study and address some of its limitations

Policies, Regulation (OSH), Risk management, Training and education

Organisation: University of Reading

RG6 6AH,
0118 987 5123

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Whyte (University of Reading)

Other Researchers: Rafael Sacks
Technion – (Israel Institute of Technology, Israel)
Wei Zhou and Adrian Haffegee
(University of Reading, UK)

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