The single most difficult aspect of design is communicating the vision of an architect. The scale, volume, shape and texture of a design only exist in the imagination at first. To communicate these ideas, the architect has traditionally had to rely on drawings, paintings and scale models to demonstrate how the project will look and feel. Technologies like virtual reality (VR) have made revolutionary strides in expressing architectural ideas.
New Ways to See
Until a couple of decades ago, architects relied on hand-drawn plans, paintings and hand-made miniature models to show how a design would look once built. Now designs are created using computer-aided design (CAD) to create a 3D model of the building that can be displayed as a photorealistic rendering from any angle, complete with a bill of materials to track costs. With VR, architects now use the 3D CAD model, creating a world inside the computer where the model can be experienced by the client.
Using a headset such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive to block out the real world and display the model directly to the eyes, VR allows clients to feel how the design will affect the real world. Clients can “test drive” its relationship to the neighborhood. They can experience the interplay of light and shadow throughout the day and night. VR users can try out the locations of doors and hallways, each floor’s view out of the building and even the locations of light switches, desks and bookcases.
Streamlining the Process
Using these systems,The architect receives instant feedback, confirming ideas about light, volume and scale. The customer provides insights, desires and preferences immediately, allowing the architect to make changes as needed with a better understanding of what the client wants. The fact that the entire process happens digitally means that an architect in London can walk through the design with a client who’s in San Francisco and discuss impressions of a building in South Carolina. Any necessary changes are incorporated in the design process before a single part of construction is begun. This capability saves time, money and labor for both the architect and the client.
Wave of the Future
Recent advances in technology have resulted in lower hardware costs and greater availability than ever before for virtual reality systems. Architects will make use of VR technology like no other profession to lessen development time and improve client satisfaction with a project. Using current consumer-level hardware such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, any designer who’s got a machine capable of CAD design in the first place can offer the VR experience to clients, improving the design process for the client, the community and the architect as well.