Virtual reality has begun to radically transform architecture, giving rise to “virtual property inspections” that provide a clear view of a property before construction crews even break ground. Contrary to what people see on their favorite real estate reality shows, which showcase a seamless process of building out and decorating a gorgeous home in the span of 30 minutes (including commercials), turning a high-cost real estate dream into reality is no easy feat.
As many architects are aware, one of the biggest challenges an architect faces is effectively communicating a design to clients, developers, and financial investors. With the numerous design and construction complexities that already come into play when bringing a large-scale architectural vision to fruition, minimizing worry over project communication is key to creative and technical success. VR can help achieve that.
There is only so much visualization a traditional 2D drawing and 3D model can provide. Fortunately, when you strap on a VR headset, the medium’s unique ability to help the viewer experience an environment accurately is the ideal tool to architects seeking an all-encompassing visualization model.
Conduct a property walkthrough before building
At my company, we ask clients to don a VR headset and experience a virtual property inspection before breaking ground. We’ve found that helping them step into a property, virtually, prevents unnecessary waste of significant amounts of time and money, and offers the highest level of clarity to everyone involved in the design process. With a VR head-mounted display, viewers are immersed in a fully interactive three-dimensional environment that provides a virtual representation of the building as a whole, including every room and hallway, down to pieces of furniture within. Some of the highest-level VR models allow viewers to maneuver throughout the property and open doors, turn on a light switch, experience future poolside views and city views, and beyond.
The interior design aspect of a building is also incorporated in a VR model in order to provide the most accurate representation of a finished blueprint. With expert guidance and collaboration from the lead interior designer on a project, the virtual environment can provide visuals of the furniture pieces and textile choices, countertops, floor designs, and other specific decor features that bring the space to life. Not only does VR clearly illustrate every detail of a property, from the granite countertops to the marble floors to lighting and property planning, it also provides accurate scale, depth, and spatial awareness.
On a virtual walkthrough of a luxury 8,000-square-foot residential property in the Hollywood Hills, IRA worked closely with the client to ensure that every detail of the property was tailored to the needs of a potential buyer in that location. Working on such large-scale properties is a massive undertaking; there are so many components that go into designing every room and living area that it can become difficult to fully communicate the layout and details. For instance, this ultra-modern property has fountains throughout, an infinity pool, outdoor patio, astonishing views of Los Angeles, a media room with an in-home theater, a master suite with a master closet and bathroom, a guest suite, a gym, an entertainment area, and an indoor garage area.
In this case, it was critical for us to get the client’s vision for their potential buyers right, and it was even more critical for us to properly communicate our immense design prior to breaking ground. With the virtual property representation, we helped the client understand a future buyer’s perspective and focus the design and funding toward items and details that they knew were going to be important to the future buyer. Once we provided the client a virtual walkthrough of the space, they were able to tour the space and hammer out any design miscommunications and revisions to the space to finalize the blueprint. The construction of this property is now fully underway and will be completed in September 2018.
We also created these virtual property walkthroughs for a 12,000-square-foot oceanfront property and a 14,000-square-foot property in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. We collaborated with Los Angeles-based luxury residential real estate brokerage The Agency to allow its real estate agents to view and tour the home prior to being completed. Both properties are permitted and ready to be built in 2018.
Solving problems before they exist
It’s a too-familiar story when a client’s vision doesn’t translate to the physical property in front of them, and a list of their property amendments can rise as high as an architect’s stress levels. Fortunately, with virtual property walkthroughs, clients can navigate the space and critique design flaws or miscommunications prior to breaking ground on the physical site. Often design ideas a client thought they wanted will change once they put on a headset and are placed into the property. It’s great for architects to know, in advance, when aspects of the design do not work for them, or simply aren’t what they imagined it to be. For us, VR allows architects to iron out those disparities.
VR is on track to become an integral part of the architectural design process, as it helps sell an architectural idea better than any traditional formats. This disruption of longstanding architecture design and business models means that those who fail to adapt the new technology will be left in the [construction] dust. The future of architecture belongs to professionals that have this technology at their fingertips.
Ignacio Rodriguez is the CEO of IR Architects, an architecture firm specializing in the highest tier of luxury residential design in the Los Angeles region.