Posted in practice on May 31, 2017 12:03 pm EDT

5 Benefits to Investing in Virtual Reality Technology

Is your practice leveraging virtual reality (VR)? Your savviest clients may be requesting a virtual reality walk-thru, and more are sure to follow.

The VR set up is fairly simple, allowing innovative firms to utilize gaming engines in the domain of designers.











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TAGS: 3d technology, architectural design, avl design, bim tools, business, collaboration,


By Cathy Hutchison

Recently I was forwarded an email from a general contractor for a project my team is working on. The subject? Mandatory Virtual Reality Walk-Thru. The project was at a military base. And invitees included every sub and superintendent that was working on the project. I suspect this is the first of many such emails.

While virtual reality has been a staple at tradeshows over the past decade, innovative firms have taken gaming engines into the domain of designers. The accessibility of the technology has become such that most of the big AE firms have studios experimenting with it. But it isn’t just the big firms.

Wired Magazine reports that of Iris VR’s 15,000 customers, 75% of them are in architecture, engineering and construction fields. The accessibility of the technology through PC-driven headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard has people in almost every design office playing with possibilities.

Expect even more AEC firms to leverage virtual reality (VR) to achieve the following benefits over the next three years ...

1. Facilitate client understanding

AEC teams are trained at mentally translating buildings from architectural models into the end-product. But clients typically are not. Have you ever had a client conversation where halfway through you realize that the two of you are envisioning different things? VR allows the client to “see” what the designer sees—which can dramatically resolve the disconnect.

While clients may perceive this as an added benefit, the big win is in the impact to the design process. Having radical client understanding on the front end can reduce costly changes later in the process.

2. Make design decisions internally

Even experienced design teams can find themselves improving their designs when experiencing them through VR. One architect shared with me how he wound up raising the height of a partial wall, and another talked about VR saving money for the firm by detecting a previously unseen clash between the architectural drawings and the MEP design.

Having the opportunity to periodically walk through your own design forces a shift in perspective from designer to user.

There is a fundamental difference in experiencing your own design at 1:1 scale. As teams iterate, it is difficult to keep track of every single change made in the design process—especially when things are moving rapidly. Having the opportunity to periodically walk through your own design forces a shift in perspective from designer to user. And that shift can have a big impact on your decisions.

3. Integrate user feedback

Los Angeles-based CO Architects—leaders in design for Medical Education (Med-Ed) and Healthcare facilities —shared at a recent meeting of the Global Design Alliance how their design of an Ambulatory Surgery Center for one of their clients led them to the development and use of their VR tools and processes to receive feedback, from the director of the facilities’ simulation center and his support staff, on a planned training/simulation facility.

The experience also energized CO to pursue even deeper application of VR in their design processes.

4. Implement at low cost

While there will likely be more focus on immersive rooms in the future, for now, most AEC firms are relying on head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Both require a PC with a robust GPU.

While most of the time when viewing 3-D models we use a mouse and screen, VR relies on how you move your head to how you view the model, and the HMD blocks out all other visuals to create an immersive experience.

The real VR model comes from a software suite that translates your architectural model from REVIT or Sketchup to VR. Options include Autodesk LIVE, ArchiCAD, VIMtrek, IrisVR, Fuzor and Enscape 3D. The HMD systems run between $550 and $800. Software suites are subscription-based, billed per user either annually or per month.

5. Achieve marketing benefits

The firms that are early adopters of VR are achieving wins with clients who are impressed by the power of the technology. Clients enjoy things that make their project more real, and while 3-D animation was once a impressive, now it is ubiquitous. VR is the next iteration.

Where is your firm at in its own VR experiment?





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