The development of virtual reality applications for architecture has been one of the big stories of the past few years. In the near future, we’ve been told, VR will become an integral part not just of presenting a project, but of the design process as well. For many design-led industries, the biggest challenge often is convincing the client. It’s hard to make them realize that finished article will look just like — or better than — the 3D representation.
No matter how talented the designer, it can take a leap of faith and a vivid imagination from the client to get them on board with, and excited by, a design idea. Architecture is no different and that is why virtual reality for architecture and design could help transform this industry.
In this article, we will look at
- The possibilities attached to this most exciting of new technologies.
- The benefits of designing in a virtual world (for both the designer and the client).
- How we expect the industry to grow and evolve as virtual reality (VR) is accepted and implemented all around.
VIRTUAL REALITY FOR ARCHITECTS
VR technology has so much potential for architects and designers. From initial design mock-ups, to project collaboration, through to the finishing touches that make a building design go from good to great, virtual reality possesses the capability to really sell an idea better than any other medium.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the greatest challenges faced by architects is working with client. How difficult it is to convince them that a design works, before receiving valuable — and workable — feedback that can be integrated into a finished design.
And the bigger the project, the more stakeholders it will inevitably involve. It’s unlikely that there will be one single decision maker; rather, multiple people will be asked for their input on various aspects of a building’s design. Getting all these people in one room to discuss these design decisions can be incredibly difficult. Not to forget how time consuming and inefficient it is.
Floor plans, 3D renderings, and models are often used to convey an idea for a particular space within a design, but even these approaches — a staple of architectural design — can fail to effectively communicate ideas with clients.
This’s where VR will come into its own. As an immersive technology, it’ll transport users into a fully interactive 3D environment, giving them the opportunity to explore a virtual representation of a particular room, floor, or building design as a whole.
DESIGNING IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
Now, this description of virtual reality for architecture might sound quite superficial. It will undoubtedly work as a presentation tool. It’ll allow clients to gain an understanding of how a design will look to scale and at a more visceral level. But how will it impact an architect’s workflow?
To be truly effective, the VR technology will need to allow clients to fully interact with a proposed model; going so far as to be able to open and close doors and windows, turn lights on and off, and move objects around the room. This level of interaction will then need to form part of the client’s feedback — i.e.; what were the aspects of the design that the client particularly enjoyed? Where did they struggle to engage and interact? What didn’t they like?
Finally, this visual feedback has to be recorded & incorporated into the final design. And while this level of detailed feedback might present a stumbling block or two to effectively implement VR for architecture and design (more on this later), the accessibility of the technology should pose no such problems.
Thanks to the proliferation of smartphone devices, virtual reality applications can be developed easily. They are easy to download and install onto a clients phone. This means that, rather than having to spend money on expensive hardware, such as a dedicated VR headset, a cheap VR headset (such as Google Cardboard) could be provided along with the requisite floor plans and diagrams.
The very latest smartphone devices are comfortably powerful enough to support VR-quality graphics. Thanks to inbuilt accelerometers, they’ll be able to detect movement as a client navigates their way through the virtual world.