Henry Trudel, hospital facilities manager for NorthBay Health Care tries the virtual reality system during a demonstration of the high tech equipment that is used in conjunction with the ongoing construction of the new expansion at the NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield. Joel Rosenbaum — The Reporter
The engineers behind NorthBay Medical Center’s newest three-story expansion in Fairfield took a look around the final project in virtual reality Wednesday, before it’s actually complete.
As construction crews outside worked on the third floor of the 76,000-square-foot wing, inside a small house functioning as an office, staff took turns wearing an HTC Vive virtual reality headset to examine a computer-generated 3D model of the roof of the building.
“We’re taking all the systems that go into the project and coordinating them,” explained Jonathan Savosnick, building information modeling (BIM) project leader for DPR Construction, NorthBay’s contractor on this project.
On the roof, they used virtual reality to ensure electrical, plumbing and other systems don’t run into each other, and that maintenance workers will be able to access these systems when the building is up and running.
Inside the building, the virtual plans help them decide where to lay out nursing stations, explained Eric Van Pelt, NorthBay project development manager. They have also created plastic models of those stations for the nurses to walk through.
“When you wear this headset, it actually feels like you’re in this environment,” Savosnick said.
The technology, which gives engineers and the staff who will use this building an opportunity to experience it before its built, is growing in popularity in construction.
“It’s becoming more and more common,” Savosnick said.
Virtual reality itself is moving quickly.
In the future, you could even create avatars to represent each person immersed in virtual reality and have meetings in the modeled room, he said.
This is NorthBay’s first time using virtual reality for a project.
“We’ve resolved a number of potential conflicts with that,” said Henry Trudel, NorthBay’s hospital facilities manager, one example being an electrical pipe conduit that was blocked.
Examining the site in virtual reality, Trudel used the Vive’s two handheld controllers to walk around the roof.
“Yeah this all looks good,” he said, pointing out where they previously had an issue with access.
To create the whole model of the building, each trade comes up with a model of its individual work — electrical, plumbing, HVAC.
Then they layer those models to ensure they don’t run into each other, mapping out each floor.
Engineers, nurses and directors in each department will walk through the models to give feedback.
When complete, NorthBay Medical Center’s expansion will feature a new concept in surgery suites as well as 22 new patient rooms.
It will replace older sections of the 50-year-old hospital and include post-surgery patient beds, diagnostic imaging services and a cafeteria and kitchen facility.