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Wagner Oliveira de Carvalho, a former Zigurat student and a current faculty member, is implicated in an ambitious Virtual Reality (VR) lab for facility management at the largest private Water Utility in Brazil.

Technologies that reduce human-to-human contact, automate processes and increase productivity amid social distancing are on the rise. And that’s how the demand for VR solutions sparks in the construction industry. Already before the pandemic, some construction and facility management companies dipped into VR and had been looking into its integration into their workflows. 

And AEGEA, a private group of water and sewer utilities which holds 23,6% of the Brazilian private sanitation market and where Wagner Oliveira de Carvalho works as Senior Project Manager, is one such company. Wagner has a unique professional trajectory both outside and inside Zigurat where he first enrolled as a student of the Master’s in Global BIM Management for Infrastructure Projects and, after his graduation, incorporated as the professor of the Master Internacional em BIM Management para Infraestruturas, Engenharia Civil e GIS

As the result of his experience in the Zigurat’s master program, Wagner Oliveira de Carvalho understood what an opportunity plugging the virtual world into the world of BIM really was. With the virtual reality headset, the project teams can approach their work from an immersive angle and enter the BIM models that are developed within AEGEA. 

To discover how by integrating VR to the BIM solution, the stakeholders can retrieve and present information and increase efficiency in an interactive and collaborative project environment, Zigurat interviewed Wagner about the VR lab at AEGEA, how COVID-19 has affected their daily activities and the future perspectives of VR in the infrastructure sector.

  • How does working a project through Virtual Reality modality affect collaborative work?

Virtual reality technology and detailed 3D BIM models are stimulating collaboration between different areas and professionals in the organization. This new vision of the enterprise is surprising many collaborators and breaking down silos between sectors, especially for those who do not deal with the day-to-day of the project and who can’t visit the projects that are hundreds of miles away.

AEGEA has a VR laboratory that processes and captures the virtual reality of the project, from drone and laser scanning, and generates realistic 3D models for the VR goggles of the facilities with a high wealth of detail, providing a much more attractive view of the environment of the operational units that involve the system of water treatment and distribution, and collection and treatment of sewage.

It is definitely a new vision in the project management and the operation of infrastructures generated by the immersive experience, a true revolution with the combination of these technologies of in-field capture, processing and generation of reality.

The possibilities of interaction are impressive with the digital twins of the facility within the virtual environment: you can walk or fly over the treatment plant, touch the equipment, pipes and objects, meet in real time with other professionals within the facility even being thousands of kilometers away (multi-user), take measurements with centimeter accuracy, simulate the implementation of projects and the system operation, training professionals with no risk, view the instantaneous information of analytical and operational data in a friendly environment.

The virtual reality generates enhanced knowledge and understanding of the operation of all physical assets for all employees, regardless of the area or training of the professional, increasing the engagement about the vision and mission of the organization.

  • Do you think the current situation accelerates the adoption of Virtual Reality in the industry?

Virtual Reality will certainly be accelerated for the infrastructure world in face of the new challenge of social distancing, and the inherent risks of displacements and trips to the operational units.

Companies and professionals who have not yet started their exploration journey of virtual technologies may have greater difficulties in adapting to the new market demands. As an example of a big shift in the construction industry, we have the new federal decree approved by the president two weeks ago that makes the use of BIM mandatory for public projects (decree 10.306/2020).

  • How does Virtual Reality help us face the challenges of carrying out our project in times of COVID-19?

The world has suffered a great impact with restriction measures put into place regulate our social coexistence in these turbulent times. In this new scenario, the sectors that depend on the interaction between people and that had not yet adhered to the technologies of management and virtual communication are the most affected. 

However, it is possible to notice, even in this restrictive scenario, that some sectors are standing out and maintaining productivity, such as the agribusiness sectors and some Brazilian sanitation companies. This is thanks to the high adoption rate of new technologies, such as drone for capturing reality, intelligent platforms and remote operations solutions.

The infrastructure sector has a variety of technologies that combined effectively improve the project management and the operation of systems. Virtual reality is at the top of the list because it is related to vision – a very perceptible human sense.

Virtual reality is a new super powerful communication tool, because by applying the capture of reality, the processing and generation of the 3D BIM model, one can take to the virtual environment detailed graphic information that is often confused with the real world of the installations. In these 3D objects, it is possible to associate any other non graphical information, such as technical and analytical data, manufacturer information, year of installation, equipment function, etc.

  • How has the pandemic affected your professional life?

The impact for me was noticeable through the preventive actions implemented by AEGEA, in line with the recommendations of the official health agencies in the fight against the coronavirus. Our team is working from home office, generating the need for adaptation in virtual communication tools.Because of this reality, we are accelerating the capture of virtual reality of our facilities, processing the images of drones and 3D BIM models to bring to the maximum number of employees the information from our facilities, and thus maintain the effective management of projects and sites, with assertive decision-making with no travel and long trips to the operational units.

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