Mention VR – virtual reality – and many people will think of headset-wearing gamers waging imaginary wars or negotiating a motor racing track in a computer-generated vehicle. If you’re an architect, however, VR means you can help your clients to really understand a proposed design by allowing them to take a walk around it before it has been built. If you’ve ever looked around an unfurnished house and struggled to visualise how your furniture would fit in, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to appreciate scale.
And that’s where VR is invaluable. Create Chartered Architects have been using computerised 3D models for some time with BIM – Building Information Modelling.
This is far more useful than a traditional 2D drawing, and the addition of a VR headset simply takes things further by placing you inside that model.
Being able to virtually turn corners, peer over balconies or even walk from the kitchen sink to the fridge enables potential problems to be fixed at the design stage. Imagine discovering that a door is in the wrong place or electrical sockets aren’t conveniently positioned, once the building work is finished. You’d either have to live with the mistake or hand over more money to have it put right.
Create recently held an open day to provide an introduction to their latest design tool, the Oculus Rift VR headset. Visitors ranged from developers and private clients to estate agents and the conversations that took place made the team realise that the technology could help in more scenarios than they had imagined. It is particularly helpful for clients who have, or are caring for someone who has, issues surrounding access.
The Create team has undergone training to cater for the specialist housing sector. As Architect Emma Cleal explains: ‘We’re working closely with Access for All, a charity that is keen to understand how this technology can help to inform people with access issues. To give an example of how VR can be useful, a visually impaired client wearing the headset might walk into a column if it didn’t have a colour contrast with the wall. If something like that happens we can design the problem out.’ Create are currently working with Health and Social Care on more than one project, and are also in conversation with one of the island’s schools about developing a new space, as well as using VR as a tool for education for its pupils. The 3D models can be viewed on various platforms, so it is possible for Create to send them to clients to view at their convenience.
James says: ‘You can test drive a car and VR is like test driving a building. Every one is bespoke, and is a 3D space we’re going to live in and hopefully enjoy. VR has opened new doors that we didn’t expect; we’re learning all the time about how it’s developing, what we are gaining from it, and who our clients are and what they want.’
If you would like to find out more about how BIM technology could be used to design your project, and to test the VR headset for yourself, please contact us.