The days of blueprints are long gone—here’s why:

In construction, it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to envision precisely what the end of a project will look like.

Giving a client the ability to “walk” jobsites before construction starts sounds remarkable—but that’s exactly what we’re doing, and it doesn’t stop there. Shawmut’s Virtual Studio helps to provide the most effective and efficient methods to visualize projects and, more importantly, deliver the best client service experience the industry has to offer.

Our Virtual Studio uses Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens to provide high-definition renderings, known as “photomontages”; in fact, it’s the same technology found in state-of-the-art gaming systems that make it possible to completely immerse yourself in a mixed-reality experience—creating new ways for our teams to visualize, share ideas, and manage change. These virtual environments not only give our clients the ability to see their project, but helps to mitigate risk prior to construction—highlighting potential changes to help the client save both time and money.

Taking the right approach from the beginning of a project is key to meeting clients’ expectations. We understand that not all clients are familiar with complex plans, drawings, or schedules—and that’s where we step in. Utilizing VR from the start gives our clients the ability to examine the environment, traffic patterns, design constructability, logistic strategy, and, most importantly, how to avoid hazards through comprehensive safety planning.

Want to see what an upgraded millwork package will look like? Our technology creates a special experience for our client that goes further than traditional drawings. VR creates 360-degree panoramic 4D renderings, giving the client the ability to make real-time changes to materials and design. We all know that making changes once a project is under construction is extremely expensive and time consuming. Our VR capabilities offer clients the ability to make changes—virtually free of cost—well before any construction has begun.

Delivering world-class client service is the only way we know how to do business, and it’s why our Virtual Studio develops programs that go beyond the project itself for our clients. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s new Foisie Innovation Studio, we wanted to develop an educational opportunity with the university’s community. That’s why we created a program that welcomed architecture students and faculty to learn about the technology behind their new 78,000 square-foot facility, giving them a hands-on look at the functionality of the project. In fact, we are so committed to being leading-edge, that we teamed up with Harvard University to conduct joint research to evaluate VR’s impact in the construction industry—and we like what we see!

Another way we are making sure our project teams are in the know is through combining our Microsoft HoloLens technology with Trimble Connect. The new collaboration enables our teams to manage, view, and access our VR data via a cloud platform—from anywhere, at any time. What does this mean? Our team onsite can relay live 3D hologram imagery, overlaid with the project’s existing conditions, to showcase progress, design, and help make any necessary changes to the project in real time. Keeping everyone aligned, no matter where they may be, helps us see the big picture, right down to the smallest detail. It keeps the project transparent and accessible, and it’s what our clients have come to expect from us.

Delivering on our promise to offer the best client experience in the industry is essential to who we are as a company. Our Virtual Studio ensures this guarantee, creating seamless collaboration from our project sites to our offices, wherever they may be. And when over 80% of our business is repeat business, we think it’s working.

Amr Raafat is the manager of Virtual Studio, Shawmut Design and Construction.