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Towards a Shared Language of Architecture:
Virtual Reality in Home Design

Traditional Floor Plan

A Valuable Method of Communication

Scalable drawings are used to illustrate and communicate spatial relationships. For most it takes years to achieve expertise. Their use is fairly limited.

A Modern 3D Floor Plan

Better decisions through better communication

As the challenges and complexities of your home's design increase, the more important it becomes to gain clarity and understanding.

Until recently, it was a challenge for clients to look at 2D drawings of their future home and understand, much less visualize, that space. For many, it was a matter of blind trust that everything would work out and look good. And it would. At times during the design and construction phase, though it was almost like the clients and the architect/construction team were speaking two different languages. Now because of Virtual Reality in home design, we can all share the language of architecture.

With Virtual Reality in home design (VR), we are finally communicating in a language the client would understand instead of speaking in technical language to describe a building. People spend years learning to create, read and understand architectural drawings. Paralleling that, clients may spend years saving for and imagining their dream home. Releasing the concept or dream they have and trying to decide whether what they are looking at in 2D drawings fulfills that dream is hard. That’s true even when the architect is saying “I’ve heard you and synthesized what you want, trust me.”

To some degree, clients understand images like models and renderings. But more recently, with the fees being compressed due to economic circumstances, people are sensitive to how much they are paying and there is less emphasis on models and hiring an artist. So now, rather than hire an artist, clients want the drawings to get a permit.

VR is a language that is universally understood. The client rarely needs to even see the drawings if they can see –– and understand –– using the VR tools. This gives them a better home because it’s one that they understand and can  give feedback on. In the past, there was the possibility, sometimes realistic, that a vague drawing masks an unusual design. Now, the architect has to stand behind that and explain, via 3D.

The most basic of architectural drawings is the floor plan, which is also the least expressive of the design. It is flat and diagrams the design and where the furniture goes, but can be very deceptive of its form. If that’s all the clients see, they might not get what they want. HGTV is full of examples where doors don’t close or furniture doesn’t fit. I use 3D floor plans (Virtual Reality in home design), which is the floor plan with the walls slightly extruded to provide a sense of the scale and form. That which was so foreign, with a little bit of  dimension added, becomes so clear.

What does a house look like? In a traditional practice, it’s an “elevation.” Architectural drawings are notoriously flat and we do a lot to illustrate what that will translate to. Yet the simple translation into a “perspective view” is still lacking. It is commonly understood that the value of a single image is worth ten thousand words. When animated, a one minute animation (at 30 frames per second) is like eighteen million words –– but even this is what the architect wants the client to see and may end up highlighting only the most powerful views. When we give access to the VR world, clients explore and find the areas that are interesting to them. 3D fleshes out the areas they’ve agreed to but didn’t understand.

VR is better for the architect, too, because the possibilities are limitless when we enable the perspective to be guided by the viewer. We can build the understanding even

further by giving an environmental perspective. For example, a typical rendering shows a house on a sunny day; but in reality, it’s going to rain, it’s going to snow. Weather variations are omitted in most design scenarios. Clients can actually choose those different perspectives. As a result, they  emotionally engage with the project. When it becomes theirs in this way, they know they have to have it.

As architects, we are excited about the nuts and bolts of a project, but Virtual Reality in home design plays a role in inspiring the client, builds confidence in the architect, and allows the team to benefit. VR gives everyone –– clients, architect, engineer, builder –– a deeper insight into how the house will look, and perform structurally and functionally. VR goes beyond a traditional set of documents. VR also leads to better numbers up front, at a time when we can control it. Then, there are no surprises. Where there is ambiguity, there could be great cost overrun –– it was $1M for a client of another architect I know of. Check out Virtual Reality in home design to see what it can do for you.

Ask your architect how they plan to communicate your design with you. A virtual reality architect will typically use tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) the next evolution of CAD. We use a package called ArchiCAD by Graphisoft as our BIM solution. To learn more about how we can help with your project, please visit our Resources page for useful tools to get you started.

To arrange your free 20 minute clarity call or to see how I use 3D & BIMx to curate a uniquely personal experience for you, give me a call. (847-412-0692 x1001)

Contact Information

Mark E. Benner, AIA

Mark Eric Benner – Architects, Ltd.

17225 Ferndale Avenue

Northbrook, IL  60062


Call me: 847-412-0692

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