Architectural Virtual Reality

The best way to present architectural projects in virtual reality
by Aaronyee

Architectural Virtual Reality with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the hot topics in architecture and this for good reason. Many Enscape users are experimenting with architectural virtual reality or are already using it in their daily business. The experience of a virtual walkthrough is superior to the already great experience of seeing your project in 3D on a large screen or a projector. It enables you to get a feeling for space and design, which you are not able to get through other ways, not even with an architectural model. We started Enscape in 2013 with the vision that one day every architectural project can be experienced in virtual reality.

Virtual Reality in Architecture - Use Cases

Already, 9 out of the 20 major architectural companies worldwide use VR in test cases or even in their daily business. They benefit from architectural virtual reality in different applications. Yet, virtual reality is in its infancy and therefore only visionaries and early adopters are taking advantage of the powerful tool. Nevertheless, within the coming years, the technology will become mainstream and the accessibility to the VR-workflow will make the difference between winning a bid or not.

Being able to present the project in client meetings to emotionally impress customers is therefore the main use case of virtual reality. An architectural virtual reality experience amazes clients, gives them a better understanding for the design, and emotionally involves them in the project. Besides customer presentation, two other practical applications profit from virtual reality.

One of them is internal presentations. Showing the design to colleagues or supervisors in VR leads to faster and sounder discussions. Even critics of the technology admit that. Architects who get the chance to experience their project in VR are believers from that day on.

Finally, virtual reality can also be used for internal design reviews. Details like balustrades or stairs become much clearer if viewed in virtual reality and this offers the architect a way to experience his work in a more realistic way.

Enscape integrates perfectly into the process for these use cases by allowing users to virtually walk through their work with only one click. This means that even last minute changes can make it into the final presentation.

Technical Solutions

Direct VR integration into CAD software

Enscape falls into the category of a direct integration into a CAD software. There are several solutions on the market that are specialized in architectural VR. However, Enscape is the only one that is directly integrated into the CAD software. The integration enables a direct experience of the CAD-model with only one click. This sort of virtual reality application is very demanding for the hardware but delivers great results without additional effort. As a result, this is the preferred solution for all use cases, as you can use a computer, do not have to wait several weeks and do not have to spend a five-figure amount to create a walk-through. Additionally, the ease of use marks the integrated visualization, like Enscape, as the solution with the greatest potential for the future.

VR with a game engine

CAD models can also be exported into rendering engines that are known from computer games industry. The advantage of this solution is the quality, which comes close to the quality of a photorealistic rendering. However, the process of creating such a virtual reality walk-through demands skill and effort as well as time. This results in much higher prices.

360° panorama picture

Some VR users are interested in sending a high quality picture to their clients. For this the best option is to export the CAD model into a 360° panorama. However, the disadvantage here is that the view is not flexible, as the model needs to be exported and only distinct spots in the project are possible to view. All devices but especially Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR can run this sort of VR application. Enscape currently does not support this feature. If you want to see this feature in Enscape, feel free to vote for it on our development agenda.

Devices

Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is the head-mounted display (HMD) that is currently supported by Enscape. The Oculus is one of the first and most widely used HMDs worldwide. The final version runs with a resolution of 2160×1200 pixels. This is the preferred Enscape solution, since it runs in similar quality as the vive at a lower price.

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive is also supported in Enscape. The resolution of the screens is comparable to the Oculus Rift. The Vive comes with great positional tracking, meaning that the user can actually move naturally in an area of 15 feet by 15 feet (5 m × 5 m). This is a great advantage and at the same time a disadvantage as it needs to be installed in a certain area to get the most out of this technology.

Google Cardboard and Gear VR

With Enscape, you can export Panoramas which run on Google Cardboard or Gear VR. They can easily be opened using a web browser. Enscape does the hosting and uploading for you automatically.

Get the most out of your workflow

It revolutionized our process. We find that we can get to decision points earlier. We find that we can extend the length of time that we’re spending on design.
Bob Shemwell | Senior Principal
Overland

Minimize project time and costs

We envisage that designing this way and letting the clients walk around the building has the potential to save the clients a lot of money further down the line as they know what they are getting beforehand.
Paul McCreanor | Director
McCreanor and Co. Architects

Agile and adaptive

Design is always an iterative process, but Enscape has made it a dynamic one at Turner Fleischer: the tools we use can now keep-up with our creativity, allowing quick decision making and letting our clients instantly see the impact of their choices.
Steve Nonis | Principal
Turner Fleischer Architects Inc.

Impress clients

Now, with Enscape, our clients are amazed with what we show them. They are able to actually experience their project before it is even built. Enscape helps us to do a better job.
Devin Canton | Associate and BIM Manager ​
HMFH Architects​