Virtual reality goal for IT-embracing architects

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 15 Feb 2019

A virtual reality studio to allow those working on architectural designs to immerse themselves within a building is the aspiration of a Cleethorpes practice as it looks to put itself ahead of the game.

Hodson Architects has just completed a £10,000 investment into state-of-the-art building information modelling (BIM) as it ensures it is in a position to work on major public contracts.

Now it is looking at a further investment to take it from the screen to a headset led arena.

The Yarra Road team, led by Mark Hodson, tapped into grant funding uncovered by signposting service Investment Hub North East Lincolnshire for the first phase, with the second tier currently looking to land ICT for Growth backing as part of a Humber LEP programme with 40 per cent of the cost recoverable.

Mark Hodson, centre, with Sarah Brattan and Greg Johnson. 

Mr Hodson said: “We were about to move in to an area of work related to BIM. We wanted to get ahead of the game locally.

“Our BIM manager, Greg Johnson, came to work with us in April last year, with huge capability around it. We didn’t previously have that capacity or capability to undertake it, but it is our stated aim. The grant helped us to purchase an expensive piece of kit and three new work stations. It means we can operate quickly, and aligned to that we can deliver training, which is very valuable in terms of upskilling the team. It is okay having the machine, but we have got to be able to drive it. It was something we had in mind, but the funding has taken it to a different level.”

Read more: First glimpse at office complex set to transform Freeman Street

The technology provides a common tool that can be used across a design by the many stakeholders that come together to deliver.

Mr Johnson said: “When you look at any government-funded project now, if capital expenditure is from the public purse there is a drive to ensure all work has to be cost effective and is working in a smarter, more collaborative way.

“It means the structural guys, architects, mechanical and electrical people, can all be brought together, and it is great for clash detection. We can all be in the same model. It is more work up front but further down the line it removes all manner of issues and problems.”

The freemen's vision of how the Freeman Street area could be regenerated, including a new community stadium

The programme was first used on a recent London project, The Ark at Hammersmith, which saw three North East Lincolnshire companies unite. Contractor JemBuild, of Humberston, appointed Hodson, and Grimsby’s Grand Designs. It has also contributed to the Enrolled Freemen’s visioning of how the East Marsh could be regenerated, with a new home for Grimsby Town part of the proposal.

Read more: Stunning vision for Grimsby Town stadium on Freeman Street unveiled

Mr Hodson added: “We operate in the Humber and we want to position ourselves as the practice locally and sub-regionally that can deliver good quality designs and be BIM compliant with core expertise. We have to stay ahead of the game.

“The next phase of funding will now be a virtual reality studio, a really immersive environment.”

Employment could follow too. A student specialising in BIM is already set to return to the practice. “It makes it attractive.” Mr Hodson said. “That’s what they are learning at university, and it really pays for us to attract great students. If we keep these people locally that’s great, it stops the brain drain.

“The grant funding is really useful. It makes the difference between doing it or not.”

The freemen's vision of how the Freeman Street area could be regenerated, including a new community stadium

Hodson is working with Grimsby’s E-Tech Solutions to purchase the hardware, with the first pot via NBV Enterprise Solutions Ltd, which manages European structural and investment funds.

Investment Hub manager Sarah Brattan, said: “There is a lot of funding support out here. We identified what was suitable, having initially not known whether it would be Hodson or the clients we could help.”  



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