VR model of the SnowCastle of Kemi was created on the Sweco VirtualSite service – the virtual snow fort amazes trade fair visitors, both inside and outside Finland


VR model of the SnowCastle of Kemi was created on the Sweco VirtualSite service – the virtual snow fort amazes trade fair visitors, both inside and outside Finland

29 January 2019
Building information modelling has been used throughout the structural engineering of the new, year-round SnowCastle of Kemi. The project’s supplier, Peikko, also uses the illustrative virtual model on the Sweco VirtualSite service.

Peikko Group Oy from Lahti, Finland, manufactures innovative concrete joints and composite girders. The company operates in 33 countries and has seven production plants around the world. This international family business requires digital tools and virtual modelling to remain a pioneer in its field.

“We were looking for a solution that we could use at the FinnBuild trade fair last autumn and that would support our pioneering strategy,” says Heikki Jäämaa, Peikko Finland’s Sales Director. “Sweco is our long-term and traditional partner, but also a strong virtual service developer for VR development projects.”

Instead of a single digital solution, Sweco wanted to offer Peikko multiple options.

“We organised an event for Peikko’s staff to allow the people to try out the possibilities of our digital tools in practice,” says Jyri Tuori, Sweco’s XR Technology Manager. “After that, we engaged in open dialogue and found the right tools to start from.”

VirtualSite makes communication and data transfer more efficient

Peikko selected Sweco’s virtual working environment, VirtualSite, to visualise its products. The options from other service providers turned out to be too short-sighted for Peikko’s needs.

“We chose VirtualSite since we didn’t want to create a single-use virtual model, but something that we could develop further,” says Juuso Salonen, Peikko Finland’s Business Manager. In the future, Peikko will create VR environments similar to the SnowCastle of Kemi for its other projects and also use VirtualSite at project meetings. “The entire project can be visualised at a whole new level when the structural engineers and others can explore the site in a virtual environment even before the design process starts.”

VirtualSite has been developed in collaboration with clients, and the development will continue in the same manner. The service will be constantly improved, based on client feedback.

”VirtualSite is absolutely the best tool for managing a vast amount of information and compressing it into a form that can be comprehended by the human mind”, says Janne Räsänen, developer at Sweco. VirtualSite’s group use enables user-oriented inspections and design sessions where people from different parts of the world meet within a virtual model. ”When the data transfer and communication of a project become more efficient, you can save money and achieve better quality.”

Data transferred directly from BIM to VirtualSite

The year-round SnowCastle of Kemi, opening this winter, has 400 square metres of cold facilities and 3,500 square metres of heated facilities. The cold facilities include ice sculptures and an ice restaurant, while the heated facilities include a scenic restaurant, saunas and other services offered by Kemi’s tourism services. Sweco is in charge of the structural engineering of the SnowCastle.

“Peikko and Sweco’s structural engineers worked together in a shared Tekla information model throughout the design process, so the team didn’t really need to use email and information was transferred seamlessly,” Tuori says. “Everyone had access to accurate and up-to-date information, which also made decision-making more rapid.”

The structural data of the SnowCastle of Kemi was transferred automatically and directly from the information model to VirtualSite. The SnowCastle was selected for the virtual modelling because of the timing of the project and national interest towards it.

”VR modelling didn’t require anything of the owner and project developer of the SnowCastle – it only offered positive publicity for all parties,” says Peikko’s Salonen, emphasising the nature of the virtual modelling.

The main attraction at trade fairs: product demonstration in a virtual space

Last October, Peikko Finland demonstrated its products to the visitors of the FinnBuild trade fair by using the virtual model of the SnowCastle. The visitors were able to take a fascinating tour of the virtual reality, where the structures that are hidden in the finished building could be seen in a concrete and comprehensible fashion. For many visitors, this experience was the first of its kind.

“The trade fair visitors were surprised to learn that Peikko’s experts could join the virtual space remotely from Lahti, move around the shared space with their avatar and present the site by using their own voice,” Tuori says. With the help of the virtual model, customers received an exceptionally flexible service even though only a few representatives were physically present at the fair. “For example, a Russian-speaking customer was given a virtual product demonstration in their own language since one of Peikko’s experts in Lahti is fluent in Russian.”

The experience in the virtual reality is extremely immersive.

“I’m particularly fond of the memory that, once they took off the VR glasses and headphones, nearly every visitor was surprised to find themselves in the convention centre and not in the SnowCastle of Kemi!” Salonen says. “I’m sure that VirtualSite helped many laypersons understand what it is we do and in which parts of buildings our products are used.”

In January, Peikko’s VR equipment was also used at the BAU trade fair in Germany.

“Peikko Group’s subsidiaries are clearly interested in VirtualSite, and the subsidiary in Germany is already purchasing its own equipment,” Salonen says.

”VirtualSite also opens up future opportunities for us to make our operations more efficient and serve our clients even better,” Jäämaa adds.

Read more about VirtualSite and Sweco’s other digital services.