07 February – As part of its efforts to prevent flooding of the River Nith at Whitesands in Dumfries, Scotland, WSP is using virtual reality headsets to explain to local residents how their designs will protect the town from flooding and regenerate the riverside.

As lead designer for Dumfries and Galloway Council’s £20million scheme, WSP has put using virtual reality to engage residents and other local stakeholders at the front of their communications plan in a number of recent public consultation meetings.

The virtual reality headsets allowed the local community to experience a “live” preview of the design. Whilst wearing the headsets residents can see and “walk through” the design in 3D, including walking along new the embankment pathways. A 3D model flythrough takes the viewer from Greensands, down Whitesands to St Michael’s Bridge and on through Dock Park. 

Paul Swift, flooding and drainage technical director at WSP, said: “Using virtual reality has made a real difference in giving the public an opportunity to understand how their local area is going to change. It’s an immersive experience that provides the truest possible reflection of what we have designed. We are now increasingly moving away from static drawings and helping bring the proposals to life. It’s a really exciting time and we are already looking at where else we can use this cutting edge technology to benefit clients and their schemes.’

Whitesands and WSP

Whitesands is an area that regularly suffers from flooding, and the scheme is approaching the significant Flood Protection Order publication milestone. If it is approved, a funding application to the Scottish Government will be made and then detail design will commence if funding is secured.  WSP has been working with the council since 2010.

How it works

A 3D model of the existing environment and proposed flood defence and landscaping was developed using airborne topographic LIDAR data, ground survey data, CAD plans and photography. Materials were applied to the model which was then populated with street furniture, people, animals and vehicles. Our image rendering software was configured to render a 3D stereoscopic 360 degree panorama for each of the locations. These images were installed in the VR headsets and presented in an automated slideshow. At each location the user could look around in all directions using normal head movement to view the proposed design.

Notes to editor

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