As a world-renowned design, engineering and project-managing consultancy, SNC-Lavalin helps its clients to plan, design and deliver projects all around the world. Its expertise covers everything in a project’s lifecycle in areas such as infrastructure, transportation, nuclear and power, engineering and design, water, the environment, defence, aerospace, communications, project management and architecture.
Back in 2013, SNC-Lavalin set out on a journey to embed a culture of digital transformation across the business, changing up how it would deliver projects to its clients. Part of this journey involved looking at what its offices of the future might be like. A few years later, the Covid-19 pandemic sped up the process – in the wake of a transformed working world, SNC-Lavalin knew change had to happen.
Its Lava Labs, technology hubs at several of SNC-Lavalin’s offices, are a physical symbol of the commitment to digital. These Labs are kitted out with technology such as VR headsets and video walls – and, following a period of market research, Igloo immersive workspaces have been installed at the Lava Labs in Whitehaven and London in the UK. The SNC-Lavalin teams have made extensive use of these.
The rooms had in fact been designed with the idea to upgrade them later, so they already had plenty of power points and other outlets ready. The immersive workspaces are each powered by an IMP2, with Igloo Enterprise at Whitehaven and Igloo Elite at London. They also feature 5.1 surround sound and multi-camera setups for video conferencing.
The workspaces also benefit from integrations with a wide range of industry-standard BIM and visualisation tools, such as Unity Reflect and Autodesk. Of course, they can display immersive content like 360° videos and images, as well as point cloud data. The teams at SNC-Lavalin also use our integrations with Matterport, Google Maps and other geographic information system (GIS) tools.
The beauty of the Igloo technology is that it’s so easy to switch between any and all of the above tools. For example, SNC-Lavalin’s teams can start by reviewing a full 360° site scan, then adding a layer to show the design schedule in a project management tool, then use one wall of the space to view extra data like a model in Autodesk, or 3D Repo data in Microsoft Power BI. The teams have found it easy to work with content they already have and generate as a matter of course – collecting 360° images is a standard process when going to site.
At first, the teams leading on the immersive workspaces had assumed the rooms would be used purely for 360° content. But the rooms have also been ideal for carrying out virtual site visits – instead of sending people physically to a site, a drone or even Boston Dynamic’s Spot robot can head there and collect the 360° footage. This is then reviewed back in the immersive workspaces, which has saved not only time and money in travel, but also reduced the risk to staff in visiting dangerous sites. The rooms can also serve as a ‘mission control’ for live walkdowns on sites. While Spot was on a site near Whitehaven, the team in London could control the robot thanks to seeing its video feed on the walls of the Igloo, with the local Whitehaven team dialled in too.
And they’ve been pleased with the flexibility of the Igloo technology to work with all kinds of data used by the teams across the business. By being able to view so much more data on the walls, potential issues can be spotted much more quickly – they’re harder to miss when the display is several feet tall.
Thanks to the video conferencing setup, remote team members can still be involved in reviews, site demos, and more. The teams at SNC-Lavalin have also used the workspaces to present to colleagues overseas, with higher levels of engagement, as well as hold something like a TV panel show, with the multi-cam setup highlighting the different speakers.
The team sees these immersive workspaces as the future of meeting rooms and offices – not just at SNC-Lavalin, but at every company. SNC-Lavalin itself has plenty of office space and looks forward to kitting more out with the technology.
“It’s a collaboration space where you can immerse yourself in information to get better insights. The key is face-to-face collaboration, and it’s more dynamic. It means you get more impact from your time in the office.”
Head of Digital, Nuclear & Power EMEA
“Hosting meetings in this space 100% makes the meeting a better, more productive, collaborative meeting. Rather than people being huddled around a laptop or projector, you can view the whole project around you. So we’re seeing massive boosts in efficiency in those kinds of meetings. We’ve had design reviews booked in for eight hours and seen hours cut off that.”
“Design reviews can be a bit stale sometimes but in this room there’s so much enthusiasm from other people in there. It was easy to jump from one data set to another, say from the animation to a 360° video because they’re both up on the walls. The meetings have taken about half the time as normal.”
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