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Virtual Reality for the Common Man

                Virtual reality (also known as VR) is a technology that allows the user to submerge themselves into an alternative reality to experience an environment created by a computer.  Although the idea of virtual reality has been around for a while (in 1962, a machine called the Sensorama was built allowing for the user to view short films while experiencing other sensations such as sight, sound, smell, and touch), it wasn’t until the last decade that virtual reality has become widely available to the common man. 

                VR is most popularly used in the entertainment industry, in avenues such as video gaming, cell phone applications, and 3d movies.  However, VR is slowly being seen as a benefit in architecture as a way to communicate architecture with clients.  About a year ago, Agora Architecture jumped in feet first into the world of 3d modeling and virtual reality, excited to explore new ways to communicate with our clients accurately and efficiently. 

                Prior to modeling in 3d, architects produced 2d drawings (floor plans, elevations, and sections) to communicate the client’s project to them, with an occasional 3d view that was either hand drafted, sketched, or produced in a separate program from where the drawings were produced, taking more time and money from the project.  Agora adopted a new process, as well as a new service, to provide clients with a better vision of their project, allowing for decisions to be made quickly and ahead of time, rather than in the field during construction thus saving time and money (who wouldn’t love that!). 


Here is the new process we have created at Agora Architecture for clients opting to work in Virtual Reality:


1.        Modeling in Revit

Prior to a year ago, Agora Architecture worked in AutoCAD, producing 2-dimensional views.  But after seeing the benefits (such as cost savings and time savings), Agora decided to transition over to 3-dimensional, adopting a program also produced by Autodesk called Revit.  With Revit, we are able to incorporate various 3-dimensional elements such as walls, floors, furniture, equipment, plumbing, lighting, etc. into the drawing. 

 Screenshot of 3d working view of Revit model

Screenshot of 3d working view of Revit model

2.        VR to Visualize Volumes

Very early on in the design stage, Agora has found VR beneficial to get a feel for what masses and volumes of the building feel like, as well as how it fits into the context of the site.  This stage is very similar to an artist looking at the big picture of their master piece, looking at the composition as a whole and how it works together, rather than individual small elements.  VR helps us to shape and mold spaces to appropriate volumes for their function, as to not feel intimidating or too cramped.  It is often easy to have a disconnect with these spatial relationships when working only in 2-dimensions.  Spatial perception is a skill that takes time and some natural ability to develop.  Most people struggle with spatial perception, but VR rids that issue.

 Screenshot of Enscape screen (VR program), showing a massing study

Screenshot of Enscape screen (VR program), showing a massing study

 Interior Volume Study

Interior Volume Study

 Interior Volume Study Progress

Interior Volume Study Progress

3.        VR to Visualize Details

One of the most exciting aspects about VR is being able to see various elements in a highly realistic environment before the building is being constructed.  This allows us here at Agora to make decisions quickly, and allows us to try various solutions to design problems while avoiding as many decisions in the field during construction (once again saving money).  We are also able to bring clients in to walk through their building if they choose, and can update various aspects of the design live for them to determine what they like best.  For example, they can look at a finish such as a paint color, or floor tile and say, “Oh, I really don’t like that”, and in that moment we have to ability to respond with a different suggestions, and turn around and show them.  This goes for furniture arrangements, furniture selection, plantings, location of glass, lighting, structure, mechanical, etc. 

 View showing materials and details

View showing materials and details

 View showing materials and details

View showing materials and details

4.        VR to Market Your Facility

The uses of VR is unlimited.  One way we have discovered to benefit you as the client with your decision to purchase VR is to help you find ways to market and boost your clientelle for your facility before your building is even finished, with VR technology.  Creating images for brochures or panos to show to potential donors, fly through videos to display on your social media handles to get others interested and hyped up about your new facility, branded goggles to hand out at a ground breaking ceremony to attendants, live updates to email out to followers as design progress continues, etc.  Agora is here to help you make your vision come true and be successful.

 Cowley College Sumner Campus - Ground Breaking Ceremony with VR

Cowley College Sumner Campus - Ground Breaking Ceremony with VR

 

 Goggle branding abilities

Goggle branding abilities

After construction of the Technology and Innovation Center at the Cowley College Sumner Campus was near the end, Agora decided to do a test to see how realistic the programs we have decided to use are.  Below are a 3-dimensional rendering, and then a photo of the actual facility taken from a similar angle to the rendering.  We highly recommend the purchase of virtual reality for your next project.

 3D Rendering from Enscape showing the Welding Lab in the Technology and Innovation Center

3D Rendering from Enscape showing the Welding Lab in the Technology and Innovation Center

 Photo showing welding lab in Technology and Innovation Center

Photo showing welding lab in Technology and Innovation Center

Written by Hannah Grammon - Architectural Designer and Virtual Reality Specialist at Agora Architecture