3D technology helps build the new Library of Birmingham

A virtual 3D model of the new £188.8m Library of Birmingham has been helping Library staff for the last 2 1/2 years to plan its look and feel, letting them develop a detailed knowledge of the environment 2 years before they were able to enter the physical build. The Virtual Library of Birmingham, built by Daden Limited, opened it’s virtual doors in 2011, allowing the public and library staff to explore and learn more about the public spaces within the new library – which was opened to great acclaim this week.

Birmingham City Council contracted Innovation Birmingham based, Daden to deliver an immersive interactive virtual model of the new library to support community engagement, and to inform the internal fit-out. Daden used the architect’s images, plans and drawings to build the Virtual Library of Birmingham, working closely with members of library staff to make sure that the Virtual Library reflected the planned real life building as closely as possible – even though it was delivered before the physical build even started.

Unlike existing 3D models used by architects and builders this model was designed from the outset to study the social and user aspects of the space – what it would be like to actually use and manage the Library. The immersive environment not only gave the users a very subjective experience as they explored the library as avatars, singly or in groups, but also let library staff position fixtures, fittings and furniture so that they could try different options and keep the model in track with the resulting design decisions.

The model was hugely valuable for supporting the facilitated public showcase sessions held in Libraries around the Midlands during the early stages of the project. Alongside this the Library staff found significant benefits in using the virtual Library to plan the interior of the build. In particular they found it much easier to appreciate space usage and sight-lines within the 3D model, which was relevant for deciding the positioning of the signage and way-finding through the space. Even sub-contractors, who were used to working with 2D plans, found the model invaluable in helping to decide on and agree the placement of their components.

“The virtual model showed us areas where we needed to review our existing plans, and was a huge help in planning the layout of the facilities that were installed” said Tom Epps, Development Project Manager, Birmingham Library Service.

The model was also used heavily to position the many media screens in the building. “We tried one particularly innovative screen layout option out in the virtual library first and thought “blimely that’s good!” And it is such an unusual shape, we probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to position the screens that way if we had not been able to test out first in the virtual build.” John Marsh, Project Manager, Service Birmingham said.

Brian Gambles, Library Director, Library of Birmingham agreed, saying: “This has proved a powerful tool for the project team and staff as we develop the new library, enabling us to get a really good feel for how the spaces in the new building will work that would not otherwise be possible.”

Daden have now encapsulated their learning through this project in their Buildingscapes 3D immersive visualisation product.

David Burden, Daden’s Managing Director, concludes “An immersive 3D build lets you and your users explore the social dimension of a building project and provides a model that can be used by the client, well after the build project itself is complete. And with our latest Buildingscapes we can even deploy that experience onto tablet computers and virtual reality headsets.”

For more information about Daden’s Buildingscapes, including a full case study and white paper, visit www.daden.co.uk/buildingscapes.

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