Case Studies

How BSA LifeStructures Uses VR for More Efficient Technical Collaboration

Learn how The Wild helped the BSA LifeStructures team gain early design consensus and project efficiency.
Raj Dayal
May 6, 2022

It’s no longer a secret that using virtual reality (VR) can provide a significant advantage with design collaboration and communication among AEC teams. Using an application like The Wild allows for teams to produce better technical design, early design consensus, and gain even greater visibility on ROI. Innovative firms like BSA LifeStructures, Indianapolis, IN, are using VR to improve presentation methods, and project efficiency.  

BSA LifeStructures (BSA) is a full-service design firm focused on healing, learning, and discovery projects including higher education, science and technology, as well as anything in the healthcare arena. The firm has more than 200 employees in seven regional offices across the country, all working towards creating inspired solutions that improve lives.

The team at BSA uses VR as a communication tool that benefits them as designers, but also for additional buy-in from clients through presentation methods. “VR levels the playing field and allows us to immerse users and clients within the project environment so that they can understand what we're talking about,” says Luke Abkes, architectural designer at BSA. “Virtual reality offers above and beyond anything else that I've ever seen.”  

Establish Design Drivers Early

With tools such as The Wild, the team at BSA does not solely rely on pinning up their work physically and then discussing; they can jump into a model as an integrated team and get alignment, establish design drivers early, and make informed decisions.

The BSA team brought a working model from Revit into The Wild of a learning center for a hospital in Springfield, IL (about 72,000 square-feet). The simulation center (SIM) is used to educate future and current nurses and physicians to help sharpen and hone their skills on procedures so that they can be more productive and successful working on patients.

BSA LifeStructures workrkoom in VR of third floor Simulation Center.

Among the challenges BSA faced is the request for several simulation rooms. These rooms are typically high-fidelity spaces that are accurate to what people might find in the hospital.

“When you start to create all those little pieces that you need to have and circulate around a central core, we need to make sure that we test our lines of sight and have good visibility from control rooms because we're controlling the environment and seeing how some of those students and physicians will respond,” says Abkes.

Every Project is Unique

When the team enters the space in VR they can continue to create, and it doesn’t change the Revit model. According to Tim Bosche, Chief Design Officer, BSA, “When we get into a model like this, since we've designed multiple SIM centers and hundreds of classrooms, we have a good idea of what the client wants, but at the same time, every project seems to be a little bit more unique and there are special requests.” So as in this use case, the team can take a first pass with the design and put clients in the environment so that they can respond to it.

“It gets that conversation rolling, and we can start to make a rough edit in the space,” says Bosche. “There's an ability in The Wild to capture a photograph of the changes, and we can send that out electronically to all team members and incorporate it into the Revit model right away.”

The Wild allows for assets to be brought in so that clients can get a full picture of the entire project and refer to these assets as they make decisions, so they aren’t limited to the models. The BSA team recognizes the value of not having to take off a VR headset to look at something referenced, and then get back into VR to comment.

Relating Back to Programmatic Elements

"Being able to have at your fingertips, a 3D model, animations, photos from group tours that we went on, it just makes the whole virtual experience more robust,” says Bosche. “It's amazing when you're in there and you can have a conversation and I kind of think of it as Mary Poppins and her carpet bag pulling out that lamp.”

The team at BSA can pull up a floor plan and discuss it while standing in the virtual space and show how the environment relates back to other programmatic elements allowing for seamless communication.  

As in the example of this SIM center, the BSA team intentionally doesn’t include too many design elements because sometimes clients can get hung up on specific items. By keeping the models simple they can focus on things like line of sight within a specific room. For instance, angling a wall in the room to make sure a lab technician will have the visibility they require.  

How Big are the Operating Rooms?

In another example, the BSA team used a more forward-facing approach with a surgery center in St. Louis, MO. “We've sighted the building, and have a flow of movement, but the physician wanted to know how big the operating rooms are, and how they would perform,” Bosche says. “We created a model which allowed us to grab a physician and place them in that arena. We're looking at this and experiencing it like a 3D-printed model, but we can also jump in at one-to-one scale.”

The BSA team put the physician into a VR headset and asked them to use their hands to point so they could be placed exactly where the position would be for surgery. BSA also included team members working above the model who were able to move some of the critical parts and pieces that can be seen in the room.

For BSA, providing their clients with this level of visualization so that they can understand the exact placement of objects and become familiar with the space is incredibly important.

As the team at BSA highlights, VR is a great tool to bring into the equation whenever teams are trying to redefine and raise the bar on collaboration. Not everyone can understand a 2D or 3D blueprint or interpret design intent through a PowerPoint presentation. In whichever ways that firms seek to consolidate and close that feedback loop, there's an application for a platform like The Wild to create a shared experience so that all parties can better articulate and advocate for project priorities.

Interested in learning more about how BSA LifeStructures is improving collaboration and reviews with VR? Watch the recorded webinar with them here.

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