Embracing the Future of the AEC Industry with Artificial Intelligence, Lean, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality


No one knows what’s next, but everybody does it.” – George Carlin

We’re back from Stanford University’s CIFE 2016 Summer Program and couldn’t be more pumped up for where the AEC industry is headed!

This year’s program was all about tech innovations and breakthrough performances that are disrupting and transforming our industry from the top to bottom. In the AEC industry, disruptions have been slow to come by, but these are the types of disruptions that are necessary to keep pace with the growing demands of owners and building complexity.  And with the rapid pace of technological advancements, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

As a premier academic research center for virtual design and construction, Stanford’s Center for Integrated Facility Engineering (CIFE) is a world leader in changing perceptions, improving methods, and making progress. With the perspectives of owners, builders, designers, and operators all taken into account, the CIFE 2016 Summer Program highlighted innovations in the public sector, private sector, and academia. We learned about recent capital facility projects, what made them successful, what that success means for those involved, and opportunities for improvement. But the big takeaway was that there’s a real future for artificial intelligence, LEAN, virtual reality, and augmented reality in our industry.

ArtificiaI Intelligence (AI), Lean, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) aren’t just cool technologies; they tap into what customers really want and continue to blow customer expectations away. The question on everyone’s mind is not if it’s going to happen, but when.

In our opinion, some of the most interesting presentations at the CIFE event came from Disney Research China, Mortenson, and BuildingSP.

Engineers at Disney Research China shared how they produced complex structures for the rockwork at Disney China by using generative designs to produce almost alien-like structures. Using this innovative method, the research group was able to optimize structure, while minimizing material use.


Another excellent presentation came from Derek Cunz of the Mortenson Company. Cunz demonstrated the power of high LOD BIM in his work on the US Bank Stadium. Because his company was determined to achieve high LOD standards from the very beginning of the project, they were able to complete the billion-dollar stadium ahead of time and under budget with a zero-item punchlist – something totally unheard of!


Brett Young and his team at BuildingSP presented their ongoing work on eliminating clash coordination on construction projects through computational design. Their software, GenMEP, offers designers an impressive auto-routing feature that determines the optimal route of travel. Not only does this increase efficiency from one end point to another, but it also takes rules of constraints throughout the model into account. Learn more about this great add-on to Autodesk Revit in our recent blog post.

At the CIFE event, VIATechnik’s own innovation team also stepped up to highlight our role in the development of virtual and augmented reality services for the AEC industry.

VIATechnik Chief Operating Officer, Anton Dy Buncio, explained the ins and outs of our exciting and innovative technology that harnesses the power of AR. Today, we create long punch lists for walk-throughs while marking the necessary fixes and taking photos along the way. We then spend long hours logging all of our findings into a huge spreadsheet and attaching images into the proper folders back at the office. This process can take hours, and doesn’t make sense!

But with our Punch AR app (internally nicknamed Poke-Punch!), we provide an interactive approach to taking care of the punchlist in the actual space. With AR technology and by wearing a visual headset, like the Hololens, our application helps clients access the list while in the space during the walk-through. In short, it will help you work your punchlist while you’re moving about and focusing on the areas that need special attention. Think Pokemon Go for the construction site – instead of finding Pikachu’s and Squirtles around the city, we are finding punchlist and QC items around our jobsites.

The image below is an example of what you would see from the Hololens:

To the CIFE audience, Anton Dy Buncio explained, “Augmented reality allows stakeholders to utilize the data embedded in the built environment to make decisions. Whether that is maintenance information or energy consumption, our built environment generates so much data and the best way to grasp this information is to bring it into the built environment instead of storing it in spreadsheets and apps that are disconnected from the built environment.”

Check out a video of our work here!


At the end of our two exciting days at CIFE, VIATechnik BIM Manager, Jesse Huynh, concluded, “Leaders in the industry are changing the way we look at, understand, and process data — from visualizations through VR and AR to lean construction processes. We are looking at the AEC world from a whole new perspective.”

In a recent ENR interview about this event, director of CIFE, Martin Fischer shared, “What I saw is real confidence that we can really get rid of a whole bunch of waste from conflicts and requests for information, changes and punchlists. We don’t have to plan for it, include it in the budget, or allow time for it.”

This touches on exactly what we’re aiming for at our firm and why we’re so fired up to integrate promising technology into existing and outdated models. With strong leadership, innovations in the AEC industry won’t just be sustained – they’ll be propelled forward and given the support they need to take AEC into the next phase of development.

What questions do you have for us about our work at Stanford CIFE or our innovative AR development process? Contact us to find out how our technology can address and overcome the challenges you’re facing and help you do your work more efficiently.

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