In the pursuit of quality architecture, as we search for better ways to create and inhabit our physical spaces, we embrace exciting new advances in 3D technologies which enable us to virtually inhabit our designed buildings – our virtual habitat – providing a sense of place before a shovel breaks the ground.

In the past, architects have used more physical representations to communicate design ideas, from line sketches on butter paper, up to physical scale models; the latter being highly time-consuming and inflexible, with little scope for design changes with any timely turnaround.

POWE Architects are enabling clients to understand built outcomes – as designed – and engaging real design understanding and feedback during the design phase, through early Virtual engagement with major stakeholders.

Gaming tech meets BIM

Although Virtual Environments are nothing new, until recently, they have dominated the realms of video games and animations. Recent technological advancement and CAD companies integrating video gaming capability more directly into their software, the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industries are now seeing real practical applications and benefits to VR technologies.

Architects, including the team at POWE Architects, are now able to harness more creative tools to communicate designs to improve client interpretation and understanding.

The creative application and integration of VR technology with CAD deliver a whole new toolkit for Architects to capture design ideas and intent and express them in an interactive 3D environment.

If architects can successfully harness this technology, there is truly exciting potential for improving client communication and understanding and then associated improvement in project outcomes.

The exciting potential for our clients is now being able to explore their space, in 3D, during very early concept stages, well before any site work commences.

Side-by-side virtual reality walk through and actual finished build office reception

Virtual reality is believing

Unlike a sketch or 2D plan drawings, or even screen renders, POWE Architects’ clients can now inhabit and engage with their projects on a level that was previously impossible; they can immerse themselves in the project space, and see with their own eyes, how spaces will look and feel, long before it is a physical structure.

When a client has a more accurate understanding of a proposed design, they are empowered to provide accurate feedback and design input and gain a higher level of confidence in the design decisions prior to work commencing on site.

Virtual challenges & debate

Industry debate around VR applications in Architecture has been fierce around managing client expectations and an architect’s communication role is just as important here as it is in any other aspect of project delivery. Presenting images that are too resolved or to a higher specification than the prescribed project budget would be misleading and unethical. As with any render or model, the 3D visualisation is a ‘snapshot’ of design progress, a tool for communication and open to client feedback.

Another challenge is quantifying the value of 3D visualisations while competing for a project, which is often challenging to justify to a client.

3D in real Dollar Value

With the current industry favouring bottom-line economics over quality project outcomes, architects responsibility to communicate reasoning for design decisions is as important as ever.

Side-by-side virtual reality walk through and actual finished build office kitchen

However, similar to the time invested in establishing BIM protocols, investment in visualisations regularly pays off in time savings during coordination and trade time on site. Clients can use 3D environment fly-throughs or VR Tours to improve confidence in decision-making, reduce the need for lengthy, resource-heavy meetings or even as sales tools.

At POWE Architects, we take our responsibility as lead consultant very seriously and along with this, our responsibility to lead and educate our clients through a journey towards best-for-project outcomes.

Powe Architects have successfully utilised a VR approach for client review and feedback across a  number of sectors and building types. In our experience, this approach de-risks delivery, resolves potential issues prior to reaching the site, and enables client and end-users effective engagement with the design process.

This article contributed by Scott McLeod, our Senior Architectural Technician and Virtual Environments Wizard. Click through here to see what else Scott is working his wizardry on.