How Virtual and Augmented Reality Help Homebuilders Make Homes Better

As the AEC industry continues to adopt virtual reality and augmented reality, homebuilders need to move forward from residential architectural rendering and identify how immersive technology can be integrated into their workflow and how it can be used as an effective marketing and project management tool.

For design team stakeholders and customers, the primary concern before construction of houses is to visualise its final appearance. Whether it is the buyers aiming to imagine their future home, or the team of designers trying to understand what the completed project will look like, virtual reality and augmented reality elevates the viewer experience in a virtual environment.

In a previous article, Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality for Homebuilding Visualisation, the terms associated with VR and AR and how they behind the scenes were discussed. This article discusses how VR and AR can be integrated into the workflow and how immersive technology can help homebuilders make homes better.

Integrating VR and AR into Design and Marketing

Integration of VR into the design workflow starts with creating a virtual environment to represent the 3D BIM model or residential architectural rendering. This basic representation provides viewers with an idea the appearance of the house, the type of material that can be used for furniture, flooring or other interior features, the placement of fixtures, the adjustment of lighting and the features that can be designed. It is also detailed enough to demonstrate the height of light switches and height of kitchen worktops.

Another way in which VR and AR effectively adopted is by enabling the design speed up design review and effectively communicate and coordinate with different teams of builders. From the initial stage of conceptual drawing to the final stage of the developed project, there are various phases that involve different teams, from discussing design aspects, scheduling functions, fine-tuning construction details to estimating costs.

Integrating VR and AR into the design and marketing workflow is useful as it can ensure that design output is compatible with this and immersive technology. A 3D model or residential architectural rendering is created on tools such as Revit, SketchUp or AutoCAD that is converted and transformed to a virtual walkthrough or viewable as a 360 panorama offers additional benefits of a 3D model. From here there are several uses and benefits to design and marketing team including the following:

  • Design issues can be highlighted by creating markups using callouts or drawing in a VR environment.
  • As the virtual experience is true to scale, users can get a better understanding of height and depth of the space before it is built.
  • Smooth navigation through the virtual model is possible with a point and click teleportation feature.
  • Different layers provide toggling between design options making decision making easier.
  • Models viewed in a specific perspective in VR can be photographed as VR screenshots and reviewed outside of the virtual environment.
  • A scale model mode allows the user to experience the homebuilder 3D rendered image as a scale model.

VR can be used by homebuilding teams as a marketing tool to provide users with an engaging experience and showcase how the house will look after construction. AR in combination with VR is also used as a project management tool to provide seamless coordination between different teams involved in the design review process and construction.

How VR and AR Can Help to Make Homes Better

VR and AR make residential architectural rendering or 3D BIM coordination more effective by streamlining the design review process, improving project management, providing accurate cost estimation and refining the construction process. Here are ways in which VR and AR can help homebuilders make homes better:

  1. Improve Project Management - In any homebuilding project, planning and scheduling are important at the outset to avoid expensive errors and rework. With new immersive VR and AR technologies, it is possible to improve project management to plan and schedule using 3D experiences.
  2. Streamline Planning by Engineers – For engineers on site, it is important to plan and coordinate installation of building systems such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC and fire and lighting protection. With MR (a combination of VR and AR) engineers can survey sites, understand the scale of interior spaces and streamline their planning more precisely. With advancement in VR technologies, it is possible to optimise acoustics of spaces as well.
  3. Fine-Tune the Construction Process – For workers on site, they need to know where the installations are needed and where the work needs to be done. With VR, real-time analysis provides a 3D model layout with GPS location of workers and the exact location of installations required. Using AR, spatial elements can be assessed by scanning tablets or using AR head mounted sets (HMDs). In this way, the number of errors, clashes and rework can be minimised, improving efficiency and achieving faster construction completion.
  4. Improve Onsite Safety of Workers – Using VR, workers can practice complex installations and learn new methods of construction before working on the site. By seeing workplace accidents in a virtual environment, workers can modify their behaviour to stay safe and improve security.
  5. Create Accurate Cost Estimations – With VR, homebuilders can create accurate cost estimations to generate a bill of quantities (BOQ) that details out the amount of material and resources required and supports the tendering process. This helps homebuilders to estimate costs, maintain sustainability and improve facilities management.
  6. Make Design Discussions on the Move – For end users or buyers, VR is a great tool to experience a space. While 3D walkthroughs provide a tactile dimension for users to explore spaces visually, with an interactive VR experience users can discuss design modifications on the move. Based on their immersive experience, they can modify design features such as changing fixtures, adjusting lighting or altering finishes.

The Way Forward – Reality

There is a fundamental change in the way homebuilding projects are delivered and a shift in the way clients interact. With new project management tools, the team of designers and builders can coordinate and implement a project seamlessly through a wide range of devices and communication channels. To facilitate wider adoption, new technology is created to be , easily adaptable and cost effective. To provide an immersive experience, it is not necessary to go as far as an Oculus Rift, when a smartphone and Google Cardboard is more than enough to engage viewers.

A step forward from virtual and augmented reality is reality . In the AEC industry, many companies are using mixed reality representations such as reality-capture through laser scanning to collect real-time data. With reality capture, data is captured from scanners and drone cameras, embedded into a 3D model and then integrated with the original document.

Construction professionals and teams are constantly searching for ways to make processes efficient, reduce errors and improve efficiency by giving as much information as possible to the team of builders in the field. An ideal scenario would be to get a model that is so accurate, that the team of builders in the field can walk through the site with AR headsets providing information and the 3D BIM model reflected on top of the actual site.

With the introduction of new technology, AEC companies need to adapt and adopt emerging technology to improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase profitability and most importantly provide an experience to customers that is one they would never forget.

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