A picture is worth a thousand words, and people tend to love pretty pictures. This sentiment certainly applies to today’s architecture, construction, and engineering industries. There is no single correct method or medium to produce compelling images of all varieties for use in these fields, but the emergence of accessible, user-friendly digital media affords architects and designers the ability to clearly and efficiently communicate ideas and solutions more effectively than ever.
Nothing can ever replace the sketch or hand drawing as a universal medium to describe and communicate design intent and facilitate interaction between professional and client, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t coexist with digital architectural renderings, computer-aided drafting and design, and building information modeling as modern methods of communication. Just as these kinds of tools and methods have evolved over time, there is yet another evolution that has occurred and continues to gain relevance and usefulness.
One of the most exciting digital mediums being utilized in today’s ACE industries is Virtual Reality (VR). Once considered novelty, entertainment-centric technology, VR has quickly become a rapidly growing and widely implemented technology. The difference between VR and high-end digital renderings for instance, is immersion. When we architects and designers produce presentation images and videos, our primary goal is to convey the quality and experience of the project to our client. These media allow clients to connect their dreams and visions to reality, and can communicate complicated, often abstract ideas to anyone, with ease. When a person can see exactly what their school, office, place of worship, etc., will look like, from the size and scale, to the color of the cabinet hardware, it is a powerful tool that closes the gap between professional and client in terms of understanding and design intent. Once upon a time, architects relied on hand drawing and rolling out drawing sets to communicate design concepts and intent. Fast forward to current day, any architect with a 3D CAD or BIM model and VR headset can not only show their clients images of their project, but they launch them into those images, even just from a smart phone. At the flick of a controller and tilt of the head, one can now walk through city hall, their kitchen, around the garden, to the point of having to remember that the structure has yet to be physically built, but that it is a workable reality nonetheless.
Like so many emerging technologies, there is no apparent, clear-cut leader in the architecture sub-market of VR, at least not yet. A partial exception to this statement is that industry-leading companies like Autodesk are already investing in VR. Revit, one of Autodesk’s flagship BIM products, is now able to interface directly with VR as simply as exporting the 3D model, and interfacing with VR headsets, like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift – two widely available VR interfaces currently on the market. The significance of this is not simply that it is now easier to take architectural designs into the VR realm, but that Autodesk’s move to invest in this area might denote an industry trend, a sign that VR as a user-friendly and widely-available architectural interface very well might be the latest leap in architectural technology, much like the leap from hand-drafting to CAD, and CAD to 3D/BIM.
Autodesk. “Revit Live | Immersive Architectural Visualization | Autodesk.” Autodesk 2D and 3D Design and Engineering Software, Redshift EN, 2018, www.autodesk.com/products/revit-live/overview.
Larsen, Kim Baumann. “Choosing the Right VR Headset When Developing for Architectural Design and Visualization | Design in Motion.” Area by Autodesk, 9 Nov. 2017, area.autodesk.com/blogs/design-in-motion/choosing-the-right-vr-headset-for-architecture/.
Corke, Greg. “From Revit to VR – Autodesk Revit Live 2.0.” AEC, AEC Magazine, 6 Dec. 2017, aecmag.com/technology-mainmenu-35/1500-from-revit-to-vr-autodesk-revit-live-2-0.
van der Merwe, Charl. “How to Use Revit Live to Set up a Virtual Reality (VR).” Micrographics, Micrographics, 18 Oct. 2017, www.mgfx.co.za/blog/building-architectural-design/use-revit-live-set-virtual-reality-vr-experience-using-htc-vive/.
“50 Virtual Reality Technologies in Architecture and Engineering.” VIATechnik BIM Virtual Reality CAD Estimating Scheduling Services The Science Behind EarthquakeProof Buildings Comments, VIATechnik, 2016, www.viatechnik.com/resources/50-virtual-reality-technologies-in-architecture-engineering-and-construction/.