BISNOW | August 02, 2017 by Saraf Ahmed
Commercial real estate offers plenty of opportunities for the creative and innovative use of virtual reality technology. The designers at Alameda, California-based MBH Architects are leveraging VR as a way to advance the design process for retail showrooms and experiential projects, commercial workspace and mixed-use projects.
MBH has employed virtual reality technology since mid-2016, making the decision to incorporate VR into its design workflow for specific projects.
Architects employ VR from the early stages of each development. Designers build up to 3D renderings, prototyping and printing before fleshing out 3D VR panoramas, immersive VR experiences and animations. Architects visualize and perform quality checks on projects before they reach the construction site, through a combination of design and film software and programs, including Revit, SketchUp, Solidworks and Cinema4D. Teams can share design intents and collaborate on design choices.
“It allows our team to be fully immersed in the project at a real scale in real time, examining vital aspects of the design before and during the construction phase,” MBH Design Technologies Manager Rohit Arora said. “It’s also a powerful aid for explaining ideas and concepts visually to clients and stakeholders.”
The best part?
"We get to use head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, and gamify the process of design exploration," Arora said.
Retail clients can choose between three types of VR with increasing levels of complexity and immersion, starting with 3D panoramic renderings and 360-degree site photos to live virtual walk-throughs. At the most complex level, designers and clients can actually interact with virtual goods in a VR mockup of a retail property, toggling environmental and material conditions for any project type.
Staff at MBH have utilized VR in the design stages of multiple projects, including a local Target, Grafton's, Peet's Coffee & Tea, West Elm and San Francisco's 300 Grant mixed-use complex.
The Future Of VR Technology In Architecture
Architects in coming years will be able to record and restudy progress as VR and drone tech capabilities advance. MBH has hired a drone videographer to shoot its Oakland-based 2935 Telegraph project each month to create a time-lapse progression for all stakeholders.
"In the future, the firm anticipates utilizing the drone Overlay Data feature to perform quality assurance and quality control on large-scale developments," Arora said.
By capturing the existing conditions of the construction site, the designer or engineer can overlay the plans on top of the images, comparing actual placements against equipment placements. The drones will be set to fly through precisely the same automated path on a weekly or monthly basis, allowing architects, planners and developers to track progress over time.