Second Life Builds Take you from Cradle to Grave…

Well, maybe not really cradle to grave as in the lifetime of a person, but more in the lifetime of a project. Everyone seems to have realized the benefits that Second Life can offer during the planning stage of a project, but few have discussed how Second Life can be used throughout the remaining phases of a construction project. Because I tend to focus more on the construction and operation phases, I find myself looking for ways to use Second Life to streamline tasks within those areas instead of just for planning and design.

The other day I was thinking about two engineers I know who work for a local construction company. Both have seen the Second Life demo I give everyone who dares to visit my office, but I don’t think either have taken the time to check it out on their own. I was wondering “what would finally push them to use Second Life?” and started thinking about the bidding process. If I could build my project in Second Life and tell bidders that they could visit a representation of the project while they were trying to put together their bid, perhaps this would entice them to check out this new 3-D world.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that this actually might clear up a lot of issues and questions engineers and architects get during the bidding process. Which could help minimize costly add-ons later on that occur because something was not caught early on. As questions came up, a build in Second Life would offer a representation of the completed project where engineer/architect/contractor/owner could meet to go over concerns about the bid package. And although making the whole build a completely accurate replica is not feasible, smaller builds could be placed nearby to serve as details of specific components – just like details are used in plans.

If the build was left in place during construction, engineer/architect/contractor/owner could again use the 3-D model as a place to meet and discuss specific concerns or questions that arise during construction. It would be so much easier to discuss problems with a completed model. Also, a builder/contractor could make his own solution and display that in-world for analysis and review by the architect/engineer.

Even after the project is completed, the build could be left in place for monitoring and operation – particularly for structural builds, (the ability to monitor equipment in the real world from a location in Second Life has already been accomplished) but that is another topic for another day. In the meantime, we have a new wastewater plant that will be going out to bid soon….


We have a Wiki!!!

At our first engineering meeting this year, Theory Shaw visited and suggested we develop a wiki for the projects that we were planning. What a great idea! He has been involved with the architecture group’s wiki and generously offered to set up a wiki for us. Wow, what a great guy. Our new wiki is located at

There is a listing of some of the projects we discussed along with a section for collaboration on real life public works issues.

Some of the projects include the following ideas:

Construction of a “Code House.” This house will be set up to illustrate the International Building Code in 3-D. When completed, you will be able to walk through the home and either see the code visually or obtain notecards with code information. Most of the home has been constructed, but we have to start placing the code-related items in it. Right now it is located up around elevation 500. Let me know if you are interested in working on this project!

Another project has been under construction by TEEX Clary who is with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. I want to make sure he has the first stab at announcing his project so I won’t give too much away here, but he has done an incredible job at building a 3-D training tool related to issues that all of us in transportation face. Stay tuned for more about this project or visit the island to see what is going on. You can also IM him in world and ask him to show you around.

We are also working to develop design tools for real life work. My last blog covered one of these. Some of the others I have been thinking about are related to building 3-D models of ADA compliant ramps. If you had a box of sample intersection designs, it might make it easier to visualize or explain to others your design concept. Or you could alter a basic layout to more accurately reflect your situation. If we all collaborate and make the basic tools, then we will all have them available to use when we need to begin a design.

SL also offers us a great opportunity to educate the general public about our field and related issues. So far I have set up some Powerpoint displays related to emergency preparedness. This month I also developed a radon awareness training tool – An Introduction to Radon – and put all the components into a kit that anyone can buy for $0L. The kit includes the slides for a powerpoint presentation, two 3-D models of radon collection systems, and a notecard.

The other cool gadget I have started getting excited about is the “holodeck” tool. I have to admit at first I thought this was a little too much of a gimmick, but after looking into it more, I think this tool could be very powerful. Everyone who builds in SL knows that prim limits are a problem so making many displays may not always be possible. Well with the holodeck, you could make a “scene” that illustrates how to wire a 3-way switch, what areas need to be glazed in a home, etc, and then put them all in a holodeck. The user of the holodeck then chooses the display he/she wants to see and only views one display at a time. This is another project, I think our group should explore so if you have any display ideas or want to work on building some, let us know!

The way I look at it all is that maybe we can’t directly import our drawings into here yet but that shouldn’t stop us from exploring ways to use the existing capabilities to develop products we can use.

Passive Radon Collection System


Manhole Kit Now Available on Public Works

Ever since coming to Second Life, I have been working on ways to use the software to help me on my real life job. One of the items I have been working on is a Manhole Sizing Kit. Every now and then on a design, I am not really sure what diameter manhole would work best. Sometimes I have larger than average pipes and sometimes there are numerous pipes in one manhole. In the past I have always drawn out the manhole and pipes to scale and tried to recreate the design in a way that would help me visualize how it will all work. Well, now I realized, I can easily do this in Second Life.

After already using Second Life for this purpose last month and realizing how much easier this task was by doing it in-world, I decided it would be even better to have the whole kit available so that I don’t have to build my manholes and pipes as I need them. If I have all the sizes available to begin with, then the process of sizing the manhole using Second Life will be even that much faster.
Manhole Sizing Kit on Public Works

Well so far I have a box with precast manholes available in the following inside diameters: 2′, 3′, 4′, 5′, 6′, 7′, and 8′. I also have reinforced concrete pipes in all the available sizes from 12″ to 72″ inside diameter. They are set up in boxes for sale for $0L inside the Public Works Resource Center which is the brick garage on the hill on the Public Works Sim. I will also be adding some PVC pipe boxes in the future – most likely SDR 35 and SDR 26. If anyone has any other types of pipes that might be useful, just email me at

Now anyone can use these tools to help them size manholes in the design process just by logging into Second Life and picking up a kit. In the end, the completed manhole design might even provide an interesting photo opportunity.