AEC industryAugmented RealityVirtual Reality

How AR and VR Can Help the US Save on Massive Infrastructure Costs

Intelligent automation creates efficient infrastructure plans and improves construction practices resulting in significant cost savings.


The US will see a major boom in infrastructure projects in the coming years. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide a $550 billion budget to build and improve America’s infrastructure.

Millions of dollars are already being distributed to various federal states. However, Americans won’t see shovels on the ground just yet. Repairing a damaged highway might be easy, but building a new bridge won’t be. Complicated infrastructure involves complex planning and lots of moving parts.

The government is also being careful with the approved funds. Aside from safeguarding it against fraud and abuse, they’re also keeping an eye on the rising costs of materials and labor that could affect how far the budget could be stretched.

The budget may seem a lot but the government has to make sure every dollar spent counts. The pressure is on for America to Build Back Better.

The Rise of AR and VR in the AEC Sector

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has introduced countless innovations for thousands of years. Yet it is the second least digitized industry in the modern age. This can change with the adoption of immersive technology.

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AR and VR are technologies often associated with the gaming industry. However, more companies are realizing the potential of this new technology for the AEC industry and creating hardware and software that makes it accessible.

Dustin Anderson, Global Head of Business, AEC Vertical, at SoftwareONE said that AR and VR have transformed “everything from designs to building maintenance and worker safety.”

We now have AR software that works with BIM to make 3D blueprints where you can walk through the plan. Augmented reality technology is available for employee training on how to use equipment and how to spot safety hazards even before work starts.

Anderson points out that “these technologies provide the real-time visibility needed to help businesses run as efficiently as possible. They enable them to provide better training, maximize utilization of parts and equipment, improve customer experience, make better decisions, and increase worker productivity and safety.”

Using AR and VR to Maximize the Infrastructure Budget

Every successful project starts with efficient planning. Large infrastructure projects involve a lot of stakeholders having different objectives and traditionally working apart from each other. This can lead to costly and time-consuming clashes resulting in delayed execution.

With VR, stakeholders can visualize a project in an immersive environment and spot potential difficulties even before the structure is erected. Using AR, architects and engineers can overlay the design plans on the actual site, make precise measurements, and determine the right materials for the project.

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AR and VR make pre-construction planning efficient and collaborative avoiding delays and overspending.

How AR Increases Cost-Savings

Using intelligent automation, builders get it right the first time. Costly project reworks due to errors are avoided. Workers can check their AR headsets on-site and know exactly how the plans match the grounds.

Augmented reality also allows real-time remote collaboration amongst the many moving parts of a massive infrastructure project. Workers can share notes and videos of design errors and issues, discuss with other remote stakeholders and resolve them quickly without the need for frequent site visits. With easier collaboration, less time is wasted and projects remain on schedule.

Construction projects also experience regular casualties with 15 deaths per day reported in 2019. This can be reduced and eliminated with the use of VR for safety training and AR for on-site reminders of safety protocols. Workers can know exactly how to operate a piece of equipment, or how to troubleshoot common errors, even before they arrive on the job site and touch the equipment.

The Challenge: Implementing AR and VR in a Budget-Conscious Industry

The AEC sector runs on very tight deadlines and budgets. Excessive delays and budget overspending, which have become common, have led to low-profit margins for contractors. In a project as ambitious as Build Back Better, staying on budget and on time is more critical than ever.

With all the lauded benefits of using AR and VR in the construction industry, the lack of feasibility studies and cost-benefit analyses backing up these claims leads to slow adoption for most companies. A recent study, however, shows that from 2019 to 2020, the adoption of AR and VR technologies is increasing as the older generation becomes more confident in the role of AR and VR in construction. The study also showed observed scenarios of AR and VR improving safety practices and cost estimates. But to make augmented and virtual reality mainstream in the construction industry, more studies are needed.

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“It’s okay to start small. Businesses should consider their top pain points and identify which technology would be most efficient at addressing them and start there,” says Anderson.

If the US government implements AR and VR technology in its infrastructure projects, that could very well be the catalyst the AEC sector needs to massively adopt the technology.

Gergana Mileva
the authorGergana Mileva
Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance journalist and writer, focusing on technology, finance, and marketing. If you have a story suggestion for Geri, you may contact her here.