Public use resulted in a number of questions, which reflected intensive engagement with the project and its represented content. This type of engagement is difficult to achieve using previous representation methods, including animation, because the user is simply not as ‘in’ the project if one is looking at a screen. Non-headset wearing participants were able to see the users experience on a 2D screen—while this helped to demonstrate the project it was significantly less immersive than when using the head-mounted display.
The simplified model imported into video gaming platform was not as dynamically responsive as the BIM/VR model, but it addressed user interaction and performance data by implementing external tools. The model and its analysis were predetermined in alternate programs and imported separately. However, the video gaming model gave the designer the most control over the user experience. In response to user feedback, fixed ‘teleportation’ points situated within the model helped direct circulation and kept users from teleporting into walls or unoccupiable parts of the model, an issue with new VR users initially. Additionally, the video gaming model’s integration of content related to the comfort and non-visual performance of the Nuthatch Hollow project prompted a user-designer discussion that was less about the technical aspects of visualization and more about the consideration of elements like daylighting and ventilation in the design process. Thus, the value of these visualizations as represented currently is more awareness generating than evaluative.
The resulting work demonstrates the value of using VR to provide insight to designers, clients, and other stakeholders, particularly when there are complex conditions and might not be easily conveyed through conventional representation methods. The work also exposes a gap between current architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC)-focused VR software—where the goal is spatial and visual representation—and VR-immersive environments with the potential to convey non-visual, quantitative, and energetic aspects of a project related to sustainability and the built environment. This gap is, in part, due to an existing disconnect between modeling and analysis tools used to evaluate a project. These tools may belong to other disciplines or consultant realms that are beyond the designer. In many cases, these programs require a more simplified model than BIM and the output is charts or spreadsheets. These non-graphic representations require translation and spatialization prior to importation into the VR environment. In other words, the 2D data has to become 3D before it can be integrated into VR, and there is no standard for this translation currently.
It is estimated in 2022, the augmented and virtual reality market will reach $209 billion. As VR becomes a more ubiquitous tool in the AEC community, the design team expects the increased interest will prompt and support additional 3D VR visualization and/or other sensory representations that address a more holistic design method in a manner similar to the whole building approach of PH.
Architect and interior designer Amber Bartosh, RA, LEED AP, is an assistant professor at Syracuse University School of Architecture, a Syracuse Center of Excellence Faculty Fellow, and co-director of the Interactive Design and Visualization Lab (IDVL). She received her BA in art and architecture from Rice University and her MArch from the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Bartosh’s work focuses on the sustainability and resilience of emergent materials and tools for architectural application through physical prototyping, advanced visualization technologies, and hybrid reality simulations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A senior project architect with Ashley McGraw Architects, Christina Aßmann, NCARB, LEED AP, CPHC, has more than 15 years of professional experience working on a variety of project types. Aßmann’s work embraces the integration of design, sustainability, and exceeding her client’s expectations. She holds the German equivalent of a MS in architecture from the Universität Stuttgart, Germany, and a MArch from the University of Kansas. Aßmann can be reached at email@example.com.