How design visualisation and VR will transform the AEC industries

For the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries, design visualisation – bringing your ideas to life through 2D or 3D computer-generated renders – can be a powerful tool. But, beyond presenting initial plans or putting together a pretty picture for the marketing department, what role can it play?

One of the most exciting developments in design visualisation is the use of virtual reality (VR) technology. But, while the most forward-thinking companies have started to explore its use, most are yet to realise its potential.

VR will bring building ideas to life

Let’s look at the construction of a new building – a block of luxury flats, for example – as an example of how design visualisation currently fits into the AEC industries. Architects, engineers and construction teams will collaborate on such a project, from initial design through to final build and fitting out the inside.

Creating a 3D ‘walkthrough’ of a building concept is a nice way to show the client what they can expect – not to mention a useful tool for estate agents selling the flats before they’re built – but VR can transform these experiences and give them a longer shelf life.

What if an architect could step inside their drawings and show the client around? As well as making a design much easier for the client to sign off, it can also mitigate risk by helping to identify problem areas before the build has begun.

Building design in CGI with VR

Using design visualisation to mitigate risk – and save money

If you’re exploring an environment via a VR headset, you’re seeing the project at a 1:1 ratio – not an amalgamation of samples and sketches. You can better assess whether the room feels too tight; if the ceiling needs raising a few inches; how the flooring the client is so keen on will actually look.

And now that software is being developed to allow previews of such changes in real-time, designers will be able to collaborate with engineers to review and update plans without all the existing back and forth. If the building owner decides they don’t like the roof tiling or want a wall built or knocked down, these changes can be visualised and assessed before investing in making it a reality.

Currently design visualisation tends to stop once the pitch is won. But VR can breathe new life and give it relevance throughout the entire build. Of course, it’s not ‘billable’ in the traditional sense, and that’s a big reason it’s been underused until now, but the efficiencies it will drive can will lead to huge savings in time and money.

This can be hugely beneficial on large, public sector projects like hospitals or train stations where budget and deadlines are under constant scrutiny by government officials and taxpayers alike.

AEC with CGI

Collaboration through technology

Coupled with a well-oiled on-premise or cloud-based pipeline between all parties, VR models can keep all stakeholders in the loop – from surveyors to subcontracted construction companies and even the marketing team – at all times maintaining a consistent ‘source of truth’ for all parties.

Take the automotive industry, for example. Engineers working on a new car model could well have tweaked the final product long after the initial designs were visualised for the marketing department – so the brand could end up advertising what is essentially an outdated model.

By using collaborative software, all parties will be effectively singing from the same hymn sheet. If the engineers change the alloys or rework the body, the central file is updated too. As it stands, the rigmarole of checking the version you have is the latest is a time-consuming process.

Virtual architectural visualisation

Beyond the build

Such models have potential for use beyond the build itself, too. Facilities management, general servicing of the building, and future refurbishments could all benefit from exploring the building in a VR setting and the ability to make changes in real-time.

Design visualisation, for so long treated as a ‘nice to have’ and discarded once building work begins, has the power to transform the AEC industries – giving architects, engineers, construction companies and their clients better visibility and collaboration across projects. Those who embrace advancements in technology can completely reinvent how they do business. Want to find out more? We’ll be demoing our new integrated platform for building scalable, repeatable and unified ‘CAD-to-pixel’ AEC visualization pipelines - Bunsen - at SIGGRAPH 2017.

Want to find out more? Learn about our new integrated foundation for building scalable, repeatable and unified ‘CAD-to-pixel’ AEC visualization pipelines - Bunsen.