Virtual reality Oculus headset helps self-sufficient WWTP save £2m in design costs

By integrating advanced design software with virtual reality Oculus technology, around £2 million was saved in the design and construction of an advanced wastewater treatment plant in Scotland..

Oculus Headset Web

Oculus Headset Web

By integrating advanced design software with virtual reality Oculus technology, around £2 million was saved in the design and construction of an advanced wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Scotland.

The recently opened £14 million Seafield WWTP will use thermal hydrolysis technology to treat 27,500 tons of solids per year into biogas and provide 88% of the site’s energy.

Plans are in place for the WWTP to become the first 100% energy self-sufficientwastewater plant in Scotland and run fully on biogas produced onsite.

Consultancy MWH undertook the design and construction of the project on behalf of Stirling Water, the PFI (private finance initiative) partner of utility Scottish Water.

As part of the design, MWH combined software from Bentley Systems with a virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, allowing the operator to be fully immersed in the designed plant prior to construction.

By doing so, they were able to spot an inconveniently located pump under a platform and redesigned it to put the pump skid on wheels, for improved access.

Earlier this month MWH won the 2014 Bentley Be Inspired Award for “Innovation in Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants” for its work on the Seafield project.

In its award nomination, MWH said: “Using the 3D model during access, lifting and maintenance review allowed operations to better understand how the plant will look. The use of the virtual reality headset, which allowed them to walk around the plant at 1:1 was a great benefit, gave the operation staff a better idea of the scale and size of the equipment being installed.”

The consultancy was credited with using advanced software and virtual reality technology to help delivery the project on time and reduce project costs from £16 million to £14 million.

When asked if the Oculus technology would be used again on other projects, David Bennett, principal engineer at MWH Treatment said it had been used to improve the safety measures on a water treatment tank design for utility, Severn Trent.

Speaking to WWi magazine on the project, Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley, said: “Reality modelling approaches, which ultimately will come into photography and video, will mean there’s a 3D model for everything…I don’t think that’s very far away and the process will come down to immersion in a 3D model being the easiest and most intuitive user experience.”

Virtual reality startup Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion earlier this year.

- The full interview with CEO Greg Bentley will appear in the December-January edition of WWi magazine (Water & Wastewater International). To sign up for your free copy, click here.

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