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MBH Embraces New Technologies

| April 27, 2018

An industrial building reconfigured into a technology company & corporate offices

by Nicholas P. Michnevitz III

MBH Architecture is at the forefront in offering virtual reality (VR), building information modeling (BIM), and new real-time technologies to assist in the design development of architectural and landscape planning. Much of our work involves very complex and highly detailed environments such as in healthcare, research and development, and manufacturers of advanced technologies. These new tools will drastically change how we plan and design our built environment, but more importantly, these new tools will allow the client and stakeholders an engaging and realistic 3D view of the end product.

VR is an emergent computer technology for full 3D simulations, which involves the complete definition of buildings prior to its construction. There are three VR approaches and tools that can be presented to the client:

  1. A 360-degree panoramic view can be displayed on a smartphone through a scan code and placed into a VR headset to give users a 360-degree static view of being inside a rendering.
  2. A 3D-design model is linked to powerful real-time technology software. When coupled with a VR headset and touch controller, this approach gives designers and clients the ability to navigate their own way through the 3D model.
  3. Taking the second approach further, the users not only move throughout the model but also interact with it. They can use a virtual laser pointer or virtual controller to highlight design details and make annotations about design changes or edits.

As architects and interior designers, we are accustomed to looking at a 2D design and visualizing the spatial aspects of it in 3D. The same isn’t necessarily true of our clients, who aren’t creating and interpreting designs on a daily basis. Virtual reality tools give our designers a powerful aid for explaining ideas and concepts to clients and other stakeholders. During many recent design presentations, the client immediately “gets it” once they see the model or are physically inserted into the virtual environment.

This saves an incredible amount of time, uncertainty, and perhaps a misunderstanding of what is being presented in the design. This allows fewer changes in construction as well as the potential for a client in the end to say, “Oh, I didn’t realize it was going to look or feel like that.” VR, together with BIM, has also revealed details of the design that sometimes may get lost on 2D paper. Often, spaces that are designed with an emphasis on natural and artificial light have different effects on the working environment that a VR model can simulate with time-lapse sunrise/sunset.

One of the challenges of developing VR design is the effects that it has on the Industry and in the way we produce design documents, the structure of design development, and early owner buy-in. As a result, the overall look, finishes, furniture, lighting, etc., will need to be presented at the earlier stages of the development in order to create the VR model. The collaboration of architectural design, interior design, and other professional disciplines will need to be engaged at this stage.

Therefore, how to accelerate this process is the next big change. We at MBH have found a way to modify that process in a way that manages the typical design milestones and maintains the project’s overall schedule. The key to this is that everyone needs to be onboard and engaged early on, but as a result of this collaborative effort produces quick decisions on the overall design, which then reduces changes and numerous design presentations through design development and construction document phases. This collaboration does not need to be face to face; it could be through their phones, tablets, web conferencing, or cloud-based software.

This change is similar to the various design processes that have evolved within the industry in the last 30+ years. First it was hand-drawn design to CAD. Then CAD to 3D modeling, BIM/Revit modeling for clash detection, and now VR and AR. The next generation of VR is “sensory VR,” which gives the user more of an immersive experience by tricking the user’s brain. The sensory VR goes beyond the normal sight and sounds the users will get from this first generation of VR setups. These other senses that the user might experience would be touch and smell.

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Category: All, Contributor, Technology & Innovation

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