Oculus Rift Adds a New Dimension to Courtroom Mockups

July 30, 2015
LOS ANGELES  - "Oh, this is cool!" Alan Leslein exclaimed. As the Chief District Architect for the U.S. District Court's Central District of California, Leslein has spent more than two decades working on building a new Federal Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Earlier this year, still 18 months before the 600,000 square-foot building is slated to be completed, Leslein slipped on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to walk through one of the facility's courtrooms to inspect its intricate design.
 
"The ceiling is hard to visualize without this," Leslein noted. "Let's take a look at the walls," he said as he turned his head around the virtual room. "They're subtle, much more subtle than I thought they would be."
 
To supplement the project's robust mockup program, the LA Federal Courthouse team converted its BIM model into an immersive three-dimensional experience. Members of the construction, design, and client teams took turns wearing the headset and using an adapted controller to maneuver through the building's spaces. The technology particularly helped the team's sense of spatial awareness: how all of the elements within a room affect and interact with each other.
 
"It helped me to see the ceiling," said Leslein. "While I understood the general nuances of it, there was a lot of detail there."
 
The Rift technology, combined with traditional physical mockups, has been integral as the team prepares to construct 24 identical courtrooms in just 12 weeks this fall. The walls of the courtrooms are designed with a textured, scalloped pattern, created by interplay between LED ceiling lights and GFRG wall panels. Through the virtual environment, the team reconfigured the lights to better achieve the desired effect. The experience also led to further coordination studies related to the wheelchair lift and judge's bench, access flooring and public seating, as well as carpet color selections.
 
The team incorporated these revisions into the physical courtroom mockup to more efficiently plan for the courtrooms' rapid construction starting later this year.
 
Clark has used Oculus Rift technology on multiple projects to allow our clients - and their facility's end-users - to better visualize and evaluate their facilities. Our preconstruction, operations, and research and development staff are collaborating to explore additional benefits of this early-stage project visualization technology.