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UK's first virtual reality construction training centre set to open

The UK*s first virtual reality construction simulator 每 offering a hi-tech new approach to training in the housebuilding and construction industry 每 is set to open its doors next month.

The NHBC (the National House-Building Council) has been closely involved in the development of the Coventry-based £8.7 million ACT-UK Centre which uses advanced computer simulation to create a &virtual* construction site combined with professional actors who interact with the trainees.

The centre uses actual construction site offices where trainees deal with realistic site management situations with site personnel, colleagues, and members of the public played by the actors. The 3D simulations are projected on the simulator hall*s 180˚ 12 metre-long Panoramic screen with trainees using a joystick to &fly* through the virtual building site and inspect building work in close detail.

UK's first virtual reality construction training centre set to open

UK's first virtual reality construction training centre set to open

The NHBC has been working with ACT-UK to develop the centre, helping create scenarios related to housebuilding to test the trainees. The training facility uses fully Immersive simulated environments which recreate in precise detail the build process for two actual construction projects: a 57-home affordable housing development built in Coventry and a high-rise office development in Birmingham.

Computer simulation specialists Makemedia used more than 10,000 reference photographs taken during the construction of these two projects coupled with the ARChitects* AutoCAD drawings to produce 3D models to the exact specifications of the original scheme.

Making training real

NHBC training services business manager Dave Towell has undergone simulation training at the Dutch BMSC (Building Management Simulation Centre) which is the model for the UK facility.

He said: ※On the Surface, it looks like role-playing, but I was absolutely blown away by the intensity of the simulation and its ability to make the training scenario &real*. The centre gives trainees the chance to learn 每 and make mistakes 每 in a safe environment, and without any cost implication.

"We are excited by the training opportunities it offers for the NHBC, not only for developing our own staff of specialist engineers, surveyors and building inspectors but also to provide training for the wider housebuilding industry, to support and complement our current range of courses and NVQs.§

At the centre, supervisors observe trainees* behaviour via cameras and then work with them to give feedback and pinpoint areas for development. The simulated scenarios are all based on typical site management situations such as having to talk to an angry resident or reason with a subcontractor threatening to walk off the job.

The trainees must also resolve problems with the build process and health and safety issues with the 3D models providing details such as a badly-parked delivery lorry, wrongly installed down pipes and missing loft insulation. Using the joystick, trainees will be expected to spot these problems on site 每 as they would in a real-life situation 每 and deal with them.

※The depth and detail of the simulation means that the experience goes beyond mere role-playing and allows trainees to test themselves fully in a safe, controlled environment,§ said ACT-UK managing director Michiel Schrijver. ※We find that people very quickly forget they are taking part in a simulation because they become so wrapped up in the experience.§

The ACT-UK Simulation Centre is only the second of its kind in the world and has been launched by the team behind the Dutch BMSC in Leeuwarden. The simulation concept is based on an idea from maritime simulation training and has similarities with the aviation simulators used to train airline pilots although the ACT-UK system focuses more on human interaction.

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