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The Disruption of Virtual Reality in the Architectural Industry – 2 May 2018

The architectural industry is about to be disrupted by an up and coming technology which you wouldn’t typically associate with architectural planning!  Throughout recent years we have seen rapid development in the world of Virtual Reality in which you may have seen news broadcasts or YouTube videos on the latest video games which now feature virtual technology, but did you know VR is set to be the next revolutionary tool of architects and building contractors? Here at Cadspec, we’re excited to fill you in on the latest developments in VR!

How does VR Work?

First of all, let’s start by explaining how VR works. Virtual Reality is experienced when a user puts on a VR headset and is then immersed in a true three dimensional environments. This is done by transferring blue prints from a piece of paper or CAD software into 3D virtual models through a designated VR platform, allowing the user to feel as though they are physically stood inside the specified environment. Although this technology has been around since the late 20th century, it has only recently started to be developed for use in industries other than gaming. So how can it be used in architecture? VR is now becoming a powerful tool for communication design intent in which it is not only useful in sharing your plans with other design professionals and stakeholders but also in aiding the client to envision the finished product. One of the architects’ largest problems they face in day to day projects, no matter how talented they may be, is getting the client on board with, and excited by, a design idea. It takes a vivid imagination and a large leap of faith for clients to entrust their home or investment project’s design into the hands of an architect, and with competition for work on the rise, it’s now more important than ever to be able to convey an idea effectively.

How can architects incorporate VR technology?

When using a VR headset to view a project design proposal, the viewer is immersed in an incredible sense of scale, depth and special awareness that’s unrivalled, compared to traditional renders, animations or physical scale models. Below, We’ve composed a breakdown of what VR can be useful for in architectural projects.

Evaluate Your Design Options

By transforming the space you have to work with from a 2D sketch to a lifelike environment, you are given an enhanced insight into the canvas of your project. A simulation of a physical space enables the professional designer to gain a much more accurate interpretation of what they are working with and allows for greater precision in the initial planning stages. VR also allows you to add in and manipulate objects to your own advantage. For example, try adding widows to test which position would be best for optimal lighting, and by inputting information on the physical environment, you can even explore the impact of light on a room at different times of the day or year. With advanced spacial awareness, you can gain a sense of exactly how a room with feel once constructed and be sure that the design you envisioned will deliver the desired results.

Pinpoint Errors and Iron Out Construction Issues

This is a crucial part of the design stage for architects as any flaws in the design that go unnoticed could potentially cause you to exceed your initial budget, exceed the project deadline and find yourself with some unhappy clients. By being able to preview your canvas as a virtual environment, you are more likely to pick up on pre-existing structural issues as well as being able to figure out what does work and what just doesn’t feel right in your design.

Showcase Proposals

VR provides you with a way of presenting your final design to clients in all its finalised glory. It can often be difficult to get your idea across to a client when discussing a 3D environment through a 2D floorplan. VR allows your clients to step inside the proposed room and physically experience how the space will feel, exploring the world from any angle simply by moving their head or eyes. They are able to observe how much light the room receives at a designated point of the day, as well as being able to gain a sense of how they will move around in that physical space.

Showcasing your proposal to clients will also reduce the amount of revisions needed as not only will clients be able to give more enhanced feedback, they can make real-time changes to specific aesthetic features, such as wall colour, lighting and even furniture. Furthermore, with commercial buildings, planners are able to test out real life scenarios such as fire and ensure the building is designed as safely as possible.

Maintain a Competitive Edge

If an architect is pitching his work to a prospective client, there’s a much higher probability that the client will choose the proposal presented through a fully immersive virtual reality experience than computer built 3D rendering. After all, the potential client is essentially won on their ability to visualize the finished design. This means, staying ahead of the technological curve and becoming an industry leader is crucially important for architects when it comes to securing more lucrative business.

What’s Out There Already?

There is now VR software that’s been specifically designed for architecture! With architecture specific VR software, you are able to take BIM into VR within minutes. The software has been created so that whatever you see on the screen inside your BIM software can be seen in VR at the touch of a button, whilst incorporating geometry optimisation, materials and lighting.

At this current moment in time, VR is still a new and developing technology in the architectural industry and therefore VR software created especially for this industry can be costly. VR environments for architecture and construction projects have traditionally been created with professional VR development however as VR is now set to go mainstream, 3D game engines can offer a powerful, low cost or even sometimes free alternative for architectural VR.

Autodesk Stingray offers a full suite of designer-friendly development tools that simplify art to engine workflows and lets you produce visually stunning architectural walkthroughs and immersive, interactive experiences. Stingray lets you quickly build a world by dragging and dropping assets in which you can create rules and logic that govern how your world operates, and what the properties and behaviours are that define the objects within it.

In terms of headsets to use with the VR software, there are now a range of affordable headsets on the market including the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR3 and the HTC Vive. However, VR is now accessible to people with even the smallest of budgets with google 3D headsets and google build-your-own cardboard headsets available for under £10.

Current Limitations with VR

Current VR is not 100% photorealistic but it does offer a sense of unrivalled spacial realism. VR for architects has been specifically designed so that the transition from BIM model to virtual space can be made instant. With 100% photorealism there would be a need to hand the BIM model over for a specialist to work on it. This means by the time the VR-optimised model was given back to the architect, the design will have evolved.

VR can now be used as a powerful tool for architects, however there are still developments which need to be made in order to fully incorporate this technology into the architects start to end design process.

So that’s the latest on VR technology. VR technology is certainly changing the way we approach architecture and is creating more possibilities than ever before. Here at Cadspec we’re excited to see where VR will take us and we’re confident that this rapidly evolving technology will create a future of many possibilities and advancements in architecture and construction. Make sure you get on board before the rest of the competition discovers VR!

If you have any further queries or enquiries, then call our dedicated team on 01905 458000 and we’ll be happy to help!


The Disruption of Virtual Reality in the Architectural Industry

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