The Nuances of Converting BIM Data to Real-time Virtual Reality Models

Last Updated on November 17, 2023

In the age of digital architecture, an ever-evolving suite of tools offers the ability to metamorphose physical constructions into immersive digital realms. Yet, as is often the case with intricate processes, the intricacies lurk beneath the surface. A prevailing misconception among many clients and professionals is that migrating Building Information Modelling (BIM) data, especially from software like Navisworks, to virtual reality (VR) models is as simple as a direct data import. However, this process is layered, technical, and far from straightforward.

1. Data Organisation and Naming: The Bedrock of Efficiency

Adherence to standardisation cannot be overstressed. For a seamless conversion process, data and drawings must be aptly named and systematically organized following industry protocols. In platforms like Revit, the absence of this clarity can turn the task of data extraction into a Herculean endeavour. Visualise navigating through 50-60 views, with each consuming 15 minutes just for access and perusal. Navis, despite its advantages, poses hurdles in pinpointing the precise versions of objects. These challenges are magnified manifold by poorly structured BIM models, leading to escalated costs.

2. Data Updates: The Need for Surgical Precision

When introducing data updates, it’s indispensable to provide detailed, professionally curated instructions for the altered elements. Without these meticulous pointers, locating the revised data turns into an exhaustive hunt. While Navis often presents ‘bad geometry’, it plays an instrumental role as a foundational reference. Consequently, geometry derived from Navis demands a thorough overhaul to ensure VR compatibility and top-tier quality.

3. Instancing Workflow: A Confluence of Art and Technique

This stage initiates by crafting an optimised, material-instanced object. Leveraging Navis as a pivotal reference, the accurate location of the object must be determined and then instanced with unerring accuracy. Navis data often undergoes a process called ‘decimation’, where details are auto-optimised, which unfortunately can lead to a loss in fidelity. This necessitates a further layer of interpretation and remodelling.

4. Material Design: Crafting the Tangible from the Intangible

The journey of material creation is riddled with challenges. Often, designers grapple with nebulous descriptions and have to conjure textures from scratch. The next layers involve incorporating high-fidelity materials and mapping these textures onto the optimised geometry. Ensuring efficient texture space, particularly in the face of limited GPU memory, and material optimisation for draw call management then becomes paramount.

5. Real-Time Publication: The Grand Finale

The culmination involves a meticulous chain of processes to facilitate real-time operations. Shaders are conceived from ground zero, accentuating lighting effects, from emissiveness to refraction. Manual intervention is required for setting up reflections across scenes to yield authentic reflections. As the process reaches its zenith, lighting strategies, both baked and dynamic, are employed, followed by in-depth optimisation to guarantee streamlined and efficacious performance.

In summation, the transformation of BIM data to real-time VR models is an intricate ballet of artistry and engineering. This multi-tiered, resource-intensive journey warrants professional mastery at every twist and turn. Clients considering such a transformation must approach it with a deep appreciation of the complexities involved to realise their envisioned outcomes.