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March 14, 2023

Augmented Reality in Construction — What You Need to Know

Over the past few years, technology has become more prominent on construction sites. One of the ways this has occurred is through augmented reality. Augmented reality refers to the blending of physical environments and computer-generated objects.

In this article, we’ll offer an overview of augmented reality in construction. We’ll go over what it is, how it’s currently being used in the construction industry, and how it will be used in the future. We’ll also cover some of the benefits and drawbacks of using augmented reality so that you can determine how to best implement it on your construction projects.

Augmented Reality in Construction — The Basics

Microsoft Dynamics defines augmented reality (AR) as “an enhanced, interactive version of a real-world environment achieved through digital visual elements, sounds, and other sensory stimuli via holographic technology. AR incorporates three features: a combination of digital and physical worlds, interactions made in real time, and accurate 3D identification of virtual and real objects.”

Augmented reality technology has been used in video games over the last few years. Recently, it has made its way onto construction sites. Let’s take a closer look at some of the AR applications recently introduced into the construction sector.

How Augmented Reality Is Currently Used in Construction

Augmented reality in construction: engineer using a tablet to scan a building

AR technology works by having someone on site wear an AR headset or use a mobile device. On these devices, digital information is juxtaposed with existing site conditions.

Building information models should be prepped and optimized for use in an AR environment. When setting up your models, it’s important to think about how the tools will be used in order to gain some sort of efficiencies in your workflows.

Below are some of the use cases of augmented reality in the construction industry.

Physical Inspections

Mixed reality overlays allow design teams, QA/QC managers, and inspectors to see real-time information without having to carry a set of building plans. This is not only convenient, but it can also help ensure they are looking at the latest and greatest information, capturing all relevant bulletins and addendums. These individuals can also take a snapshot of the field condition with the intended design so that subcontractors can easily make corrections. All of this is predicated on the BIM preparation and careful curation of AR content before on-site review.

Capture Changes and Deviations From Building Plans

Augmented reality can also be useful as it allows all parties to capture changes that occurred on the project. For instance, let’s say that a subcontractor needed to reroute piping in the field. Doing so required them to add a few 90s to their run of pipe. This is a legitimate cost that the subcontractor may submit via change order.

The subcontractor can then take a picture of the field condition blended with the original design, shown in a virtual environment. This allows the general contractor and the owner to clearly see what the change was and why it occurred. In turn, this can help expedite project closeout and ensure change orders are processed in a timely fashion. Similarly, the use of AR can assist in the resolution of discrepancies found during construction and can be used to support RFIs and design changes during CA.


Augmented reality can also be useful for field workers, as they can perform safety training via a wearable headset or orient to a new jobsite through immersive review. For instance, field workers can be exposed to potentially hazardous working conditions in a virtual setting. Safety managers can then perform drills and provide instruction that allows workers to properly handle the situation. By practicing beforehand, there may be a reduced likelihood of injury in the field. 

There is also the ability to “see what I see” with AR which allows a safety manager on site to remote in an expert or another safety manager to see in real time the site conditions they are seeing and be able to advise or provide another set of eyes on a situation. 

How Augmented Reality Will Be Used in the Future

There are two notable ways in which augmented reality may be used by construction companies in the future. Both uses may help streamline the construction process and have already begun to be implemented by companies to varying degrees as the technology gets better.

First and foremost, lesser known than the use of virtual reality, augmented reality can be used to show the job site to various team members. For instance, let’s say that the end user is a pharmaceutical company based overseas. They are working with their researchers to develop lab space. The researchers can “walk through” the job without having to travel to the site itself. They can see the status of the project and catch potential design issues. The benefit of using AR or “mixed reality” (spectrum of augmented to virtual) for this remote review is that it allows for a worker to be on site, physically walking through the overlaid content, while the remote person is viewing the same environment though through the reality capture and re-representation of the space as a point cloud or mesh model along with the overlaid content of the design or coordinated model being reviewed. The person on site can interact with the remote observer as an avatar in the physical space on site while the remote viewer will see a representation of the on-site worker as an avatar in their remote version of the experience.

By catching design issues early through advanced constructability and design reviews, rework can be minimized. It’s easier to change a design when the final finishes have not been completed. Augmented reality can allow this to happen and increases the likelihood of a more efficient construction process. This can also lead to more satisfied end user as more members of the eventual facility or operations team can be brought in earlier to review program and flow of the space.

Other stakeholders can view the job as well. For example, general contractors can host subcontractor meetings without requiring the subcontractors’ project management teams on site. This can increase project engagement. It can also reduce downtime, as decisions can be made quickly.

The other future use case of augmented reality that is gaining momentum is by field workers. Multiple subcontractors can look at a space and see how the space is meant to be built. For instance, a fire protection subcontractor can view ductwork and identify where their hangers are supposed to go, even if the ductwork is not yet installed.

Augmented reality has become so efficient in localization and overlay precision that installation is beginning to be done with AR in lieu of layout and large companies like Trimble have layout and installation-grade AR systems in use today out in the field. Construction-specific AR companies are using the project coordinate systems to tie into and provide overlay of digital content. 

In this case, AR has the ability to improve project planning and streamline the project lifecycle. AR can help field workers conceptualize a design that was likely drawn in the office by a BIM Coordinator or Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Coordinator. This, in turn, can improve workflows and minimize costly rework.

The Benefits of Using Augmented Reality on Construction Projects

There are multiple benefits that come with using augmented reality in construction. To summarize the points listed above, AR can:

The use of AR will likely grow in the construction industry over the next few years, showing improved benefits to all project stakeholders.

The Drawbacks of Using Augmented Reality on Construction Projects

While augmented reality is a promising new technology, there are still some drawbacks that you should consider when implementing it on your job.

First and foremost, augmented reality in construction often requires a stable internet connection, especially if broadcasting to other team members. Internet connections can be tough to come by on construction sites, which can then make AR limited in its use. Thankfully for those on site, “offline” modes have been factored into many of the leading applications, though as mentioned, this will limit the team sharing benefits which can come with better connectivity.

Another downside of AR is implementation and buy-in. The upfront costs of AR can be a bit expensive. Additionally, a general contractor may have trouble getting buy-in from all trades involved. Some subcontractors may be willing to purchase an AR product, while others may not be. This can then lead to inconsistencies on the job site.

Furthermore, there may be a lack of buy-in from field workers. Field workers can often be established in their ways and may not be open to new technology like AR. As the technology matures and as innovation leaders across companies continue to explore and showcase the potential of augmented reality, more awareness and trust in the capabilities is being gained. When the technology becomes more accessible and stable, and project teams can be confident in the applications and see it as a valuable tool, we will see adoption take off on this truly revolutionary construction technology.

Augmented Reality in Construction Is the Future

Augmented reality in construction: architect using a tablet

Augmented reality has been introduced to the construction industry over the last few years. The use of AR can help all members of the project team, from those involved with design to the end-user who will one day occupy the space. As AR continues to improve and becomes more widely accepted, its uses will likely continue to grow.

If you’re looking to maximize the use of AR technology on your job site, and are hesitant on the current state of augmented reality technology then be sure to consider Avvir. Avvir is performing a similar function of comparing the real world to the design and coordination models in an accessible, easy-to-navigate web-based platform. 

Avvir uses reality capture of your jobsite with 360 photography and LiDAR point cloud scans for reviewing the as-built conditions, similar to how you would review and have remote reviews with augmented reality once that technology is more accessible. The benefit to using Avvir is that it is technology that exists today. It is accurately mapping your reality capture and BIM models to your project's coordinate system, eliminating any of the concerns with overlay accuracy in augmented reality and providing instant confidence in the Avvir platform as a review tool. This, in turn, can help with billings, schedules, project management, and change management. 

Be sure to contact us today to learn more about how Avvir can potentially improve your construction process.

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