November 7, 2016

How Unreal Engine is Breaking New Ground in the Construction Industry

By Keef Sloan

The concept of a construction groundbreaking, a traditional ceremonial act whereby the first shovel of dirt is removed from a site to celebrate the start of a new build project, is nothing new. 

But what is new is a groundbreaking conducted entirely in VR, providing the assembled audience the chance to witness the structure rise out of the ground before taking a virtual tour inside.

Well, that’s exactly what took place recently when a proposed building project was brought to life in Unreal Engine by architectural visualization specialists Theia Interactive

Their client, Suffolk Construction, is expanding its corporate HQ in Boston and recently hosted an event attended by a multitude of press, senior Suffolk Construction VP’s, and even the Mayor of Boston, Martin J Walsh. 

With only four weeks to put the entire groundbreaking into VR for experiencing on the HTC Vive, the team knew it was going to have to dig deep in order to meet the challenge.

“We started using all sorts of different software, but when we switched to Unreal Engine all the doors were blown wide open. We were amazed at the difference,” said Mark Pullyblank, Theia’s CEO.

“We began with the actual architectural files that Suffolk created for their own visualizations which contained between seven and ten million polygons,” explained Stephen Phillips, the Chief Technology Officer at Theia.

“There was a lot of data and a lot of hi-res textures that we were trying to use. But Unreal Engine handled it like a champ and we were able to get it running on VR smoothly. It would have been a real hassle to do that any other way.”

The end result? An amazing experience where the assembled VIP’s could not only see the new building rise up out of the ground, but they could also experience what it is going to be like to work there as well - all without a single brick being laid.

Take a moment to watch the behind-the-scenes video above before learning about other ways in which Unreal Engine is impacting a variety of industries over on our Enterprise page.