Technology & Innovation

Beyond BIM: The Future of Visualization

A sign strategically positioned at the recent groundbreaking ceremony for Suffolk Construction’s corporate offices in Roxbury, MA subtly reinforced the company’s commitment to both innovation and efficiency: “Pixels are cheaper than bricks.”

At the direction of Suffolk CEO John Fish and overseen by Chief Innovation Officer Chris Mayer, Suffolk Construction has embraced new technologies and the tenets of lean construction to develop their signature “Build Smart” initiative. As CEO Fish stated at the ceremony: ​“Our team is fully committed to transforming the construction experience for our clients by leveraging state-of-the-art technologies and processes.”

Suffolk CEO John Fish virtually breaks ground as Boston Mayor (far left) Marty Walsh and Suffolk’s Chris Mayer look on.

When it came time for Suffolk to plan their groundbreaking ceremony, they again took inspiration from their “Build Smart” operating principle. Dusty shovels and hard hats gave way to virtual reality headsets and game controllers as Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Suffolk CEO John Fish, and Northeast President and GM Angus Leary virtually “broke ground” on Suffolk’s new headquarters.

They partnered with Theia Interactive, a California-based virtual design studio specializing in creating stunningly accurate and life-like real time visualizations. Suffolk not only made virtual dirt fly at the ceremony, they continue to disrupt traditional construction management by pushing the boundaries on what’s possible when a company is energized to provide robust and technologically advanced collaboration tools for the benefit of their clients.

Theia’s VR experiences are game-changers, allowing everyone from clients to investors to end-users not only access to environments before they are ever built, but also full control while inside the demonstration. Unlike videos and 360° renders, users control their own actions inside the environment, going where they want, when they want. The only way to be as fully immersed in the environment is to actually build it. And while these experiences can be accessed through mobile apps on phones and iPads, or via touchscreens, the most immersive tours are experienced utilizing VR headsets, which is exactly how the attendees of the Fall 2016 Suffolk groundbreaking viewed that event.

Theia has created virtual hotels, medical facilities, homes, multifamily projects, entertainment venues, and civic spaces. Theia has built, from 3D engineering data, high-performance automobiles and the showroom floor which housed them. They have completed projects from multinational companies to small-town home builders. What all of Theia’s projects share is an unparalleled level of detail and standard of quality.

“We see significant value in leveraging virtual reality technologies to deliver more predictable and efficient projects for our clients with the highest levels of quality and safety,” says Kevin Bredeson, Vice President of Virtual Design and Construction at Suffolk. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Theia Interactive to produce these virtual reality experiences. Every step of the way they have exceeded our expectations and we look forward to working with their team on future projects.”

With the incorporation of even more dynamic and engaging collaboration tools on the horizon for Theia, they continue to push the limits of virtual reality while ushering in a new era of visualization for architects, engineers, and contractors.