The Birmingham company commissioned to create a ‘virtual world’ Library of Birmingham has released a white paper explaining how "immersive environments" such as Second Life can reduce construction costs.

Daden Limited was asked to deliver a three-dimensional interactive model of the new £188 million building during its construction process to help inform the fit-out of the internal space.

Daden, based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus at Faraday Wharf, used the architects’ plans as a base to build the model, with fly-through videos and style book as references.

The virtual library was then hosted in public virtual world environment Second Life.

This meant that anyone would be able to download the viewer software and tour the library from their own home.

Daden’s white paper explains how immersive environments can provide a subjective view of a built environment project, which could help to avoid costly rework, reducing risk, increasing client and consumer satisfaction.

This user model complements the existing architects and builder’s models.

David Burden, managing director of Daden Limited, said: “Back in 2009 Second Life was the obvious choice for the Library of Birmingham project – it gave us an open system that could not only be made easily available to the public, but also an environment where we could rapidly teach library staff how to build in world.

“At the time we said that we expected the immersive environment landscape to change and if we were doing the project again today – where there is far more interest in web and mobile delivery – we’d probably use a platform such as Unity3D – which would also increase our ability to make use of existing CAD and architects’ 3D models.

“We can even deploy buildingscapes on tablet computers, such as the iPad.

"This means that once the foundations and floors are in place the user can walk around the shell of the building but see the finished model on their iPad.

Second Life and real life images of the Library of Birmingham
Second Life and real life images of the Library of Birmingham
 

"For the future we are looking at how augmented reality could actually overlay the virtual model on top of the physical one,” added Mr Burden.

During early 2011, as construction on the physical library started, Daden worked closely with members of library staff to make sure the virtual library reflected the planned real life building as closely as possible, and Birmingham City Council launched the virtual version in July 2011.

Library developers were able to use the virtual site to identify flows of people through the building, including walkways, viewing spots and potential pinch-points.

Brian Gambles, director, Library of Birmingham said: “We opened the doors of the virtual library in 2011, two years before the real building opened in 2013, for the public to come in, explore and share their comments and ideas and encourage people to explore it for themselves.”

John Marsh, project manager, Service Birmingham, said: “I ran a session at Yardley Library and the effect was astonishing.

"I got one of the kids out of the audience to drive himself around the Virtual Library while his mum and dad were watching on the big screen and they were absolutely staggered.

“There were 40-50 people at a time in those sessions, and to try and have the same impact other than through a 3D model, it would be really difficult. This had much more impact than the public doing it themselves.”

Brian Gambles added: “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."