Virtual Reality in Architecture

12 January 2024 by Darren Leach

Virtual Reality in Design George James Architects

Virtual Reality in Architecture; how we use this emerging technology at George and James so that you can walk around your building before it is built.

It may seem like a far-fetched idea, but now you can visit your new home or building before it is built and as it is being designed using virtual reality (VR) technology. At George and James Architects we have integrated this technology into our design process so that you can truly experience your new building and interiors before the builders roll in. In this article we will explore how this works. 

Many people are beginning to experience the excitement of virtual reality in the world of gaming and through watching tv shows like Your Home Made Perfect, where design projects are brought to life. So, what is virtual reality and how can we use it in architecture to add value to your experience when you work with us?

VR Blog Image George James Architects

Virtual Reality is the term used to describe a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with and experienced by an individual through the use of specialist hardware and software. The aim of virtual reality is to create a realistic and immersive environment that can simulate the sensations of sight, sound and touch, and sometimes taste and smell.

There are a number of key components required to make virtual reality work. The first is a headset. A VR headset is worn on the head and covers the eyes to display 3D imagery, the headsets often include audio speakers and microphones. Next come the input devices which allow users to interact with the virtual environment, these can include hand controllers, gloves and movement sensors. And finally, to prepare the 3D environment a powerful computer and specialist software are required to generate and model the virtual environment.

Using Virtual Reality in Design George James Architects

In the world of designing buildings virtual reality can add real value to the design process and can help you to feel as though you are present inside your new extension, your new home, renovation or building. You are able to look up at your new building, to walk around the outside of your home, and inside you can experience the size of your new rooms, what it will be like to move from one room to another and how your new furniture, kitchens, bathrooms and other important rooms will look and work. 

As the design for your project develops different ideas and options can be tested – and whilst the upfront investment in both time and fees may feel unnecessary, getting things right on paper, and experiencing the ideas and options through VR is a lot more cost effective than making last minute changes to the design after the building work has started.

Here at George and James we are integrating VR technology into every stage of our design process; this means that you are able to immerse yourself within your unique design as we create it. At the very early conceptual stages when we are generating the first ideas the VR model will be very basic, it will be used to explore how big rooms could be, and what shape and form the building might take. As we move together through each stage of the design process the VR model will take on a greater level of detail.

Using our skills and experience as architects and designers we are able to read 2D plans and drawings with confidence, we understand that not everyone is able to do this. The real value of integrating VR technology with our design process is that we can bring our ideas and designs to life in a way that you can understand them, so that you can have confidence in the design as well.

Virtual Reality Technology House Architecture Geoge James

What benefits can virtual reality bring to your project?

  • Communication - Bringing 2D ideas to life so that you can truly understand what they mean for your project. Understanding three-dimensional space by viewing 2D drawings can be very difficult if you are not used to doing so.

  • Experimentation - You can stand in your new rooms and spaces, experiencing them before they are built. Different options can be explored helping you to make the best decisions for your project in an efficient manner.
  • Time – Experiencing the design for your project in three-dimensions will help you make decisions with confidence and in our experience, this supports more time-efficient decision making leading to a streamlined design process.
  • Cost – VR can save you money, you are able to experience your project whilst it is on the drawing board, reducing the desire for changes during the building process, changes which are far more costly than the initial investment in a VR design process.
Virtual Reality for Architecture George James

So, what does all of this cost we hear you ask?

Without sounding too vague and non-committal, this will depend on your individual project and the amount of work you have asked us to include in the design for your project. The factors that will impact on the cost of VR for your project are:

  • The size of your project – we will need to build a 3D computer model of your project, for you to dive inside. The size of the project will dictate the amount of time it will take us to do this which will have an effect on the cost. 

  • The complexity of your project – the time it takes to build a 3D computer model of your project will in part depend on how complex your building might be. If we are working on an extension or renovation of a listed or historic building, for example, it will take longer for us to create the computer model than it would if we were modelling a new building – it takes much longer to model wonky old walls than it does to model straight new ones!

  • The scope of our appointment (what you have asked us to include already) - For projects where we have already started designing, it will depend on the extent of what you have already hired us to do. For example, if you have hired us to design the outside of your building but not the interiors, but you would like to view your interiors in a VR environment, we would need to calculate an updated fee to allow for the extra time required to facilitate this. Equally, your project may have only been drawn in 2D, in which case we will need to calculate a fee based on the time it would take us to create a three-dimensional model.

  • The amount of detail you would like to see – if you would like to only experience the size and shape of your new rooms, or the shape of your new building from the outside then creating a three-dimensional model will be considerably quicker than if you would like to see lots of interior detail, such as kitchens, bathrooms, internal fixtures and fittings, finish materials, colours and textures. 

  • The number of VR experiences you would like to have – if you really fall in love with your virtual-reality home or building and you would like to immerse yourself in it every day (an exaggeration perhaps?) then this will cost more than one meeting at each stage of your project.

Ultimately the cost will depend on the time it would take us to produce the three-dimensional model for your project, and the amount of time you would like to spend within your virtual reality building.

Now you might be worried about injuring yourself whilst you are immersed in your design – well, we have thought of that and we’ve got you covered. We have a big space in the centre of our studio that we clear to make way for your virtual reality excursion. We set up safe zones within the headsets as well, so there is no risk of you walking into a wall or falling over – though we will remind you not to sit down on the virtual furniture when you are inside your building!

In a nutshell at George and James Architects we are seamlessly integrating virtual reality technology into our design process as we feel that this is a valuable tool to help you experience your future building. With the use of VR headsets and specialist software, we can bring your project to life, allowing you to explore and understand the design in three dimensions. This immersive approach offers significant benefits, enhancing communication by helping you to understand the ideas for your project, enabling efficient experimentation with different options, and ultimately saving time and costs throughout your project. 

If you share our belief that using virtual reality to support your project will add great value then please get in touch, we are ready and excited to talk to you.

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