The Immersive Construction Laboratory

A Regional Asset for Retrofit Design

Designing in 3D

The Immersive Construction (ICon) Lab is a state-of-the-art laboratory deployed at the EEB Hub’s temporary headquarters in Building 101 at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia (it will be moved to the Center for Building Energy Science when construction is complete in 2014). The lab gives designers access to a virtual reality platform and collaborative workspace where they can work out energy retrofit designs and present their solutions to clients.

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The ICon Lab’s focal point is a large, immersive, three-screen projection capable of displaying full-scale 3D and 4D (building information models that account for time or schedule information) models. Up to forty people can navigate simultaneously through the immersive display during design reviews. The lab can be used to visualize physical facility characteristics including architectural, electrical, and mechanical designs. Just as valuable, designers can use the lab to review model simulations of how a design functions in different situations.

The ICon Lab – along with building information modeling (BIM) tools and virtual prototypes – was created in response to an increased market demand for technologies that allow collaboration among various project participants in architecture, engineering, and construction.

Use in Integrated Design

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Advanced energy retrofit (AER) project design and execution demand collaboration among the many disciplines and professionals involved. The level of success of any collaborative project largely depends on how effectively participants communicate. Along with its 3D design functionality, the ICon Lab integrates high-quality video and audio conferencing, allowing for seamless information sharing with remote collaborators.

Further, the Lab allows a project team to interactively push data to the display screens during design charettes; 2D plans can be displayed side-by-side with slide shows and other media. Previous research studies using the ICon Lab have found that the ability to review many data sources – and thus engage a broader range of design team participants – keeps participants better informed and helps the design teams to identify more potential solutions to design challenges. Through improved integration of design tools and real-time simulation results, project teams are able to make more informed decisions during the design charettes.

A sister system, located at The Pennsylvania State University’s main campus, can be synced with the ICon Lab so that the two systems interact with one another, allowing participants at both sites to view the same content. For example, a 3D model running at The Navy Yard would be running at the same time at Penn State when the systems are synced.

Design of Building 661

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The ICon Lab informed Building 661’s AER design. It was used during design review meetings to display an interactive, navigable model of Building 661, developed in Unity 3D, as well as the building information model (BIM) used for performing various energy and daylight simulation analyses. An important aspect of the design, construction, and operation of energy efficient buildings is leveraging the analytical capabilities of computational modeling to optimize the facility design. During the design of Building 661’s AER, the highly interactive workspace of the immersive display system allowed the project and research teams to navigate design and analyze the model in stereo, at a 1:1 scale.

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