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Today's visualization services offer more options for architects and clients

With advancements in technology architects can now, among other things, let clients watch a video of a three-dimensional rendering or even put on a virtual reality headset and step inside the space.

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Technology has been transformative for architects and designers as they create project samples for their clients. Anymore, they do not include images only. Now clients can watch a video of a 3D rendering or even put on a virtual reality headset and step inside the space.

Casey Hutton remembers architecture’s era of paint and charcoal drawings. It was decades ago, in what’s since receded into sepia-toned history — long left behind by giant leaps forward in architecture and design.

Hutton is an office manager and architectural project manager for EAPC, a sprawling engineering and design firm with offices sprinkled across the country. He’s been working in architecture since 2003, and things have only gotten better since the days clients got late-stage drawings of construction-to-be.

“The interesting thing — back then, that was usually something after things had been figured out and all nailed down," Hutton said. “...we tried to only do it once."

There have been years of changes since then, and the result has been transformative for architects and designers. Not only is it easier to pitch a prospective client, but it’s even become a kind of quality control, letting those clients watch a video of a three-dimensional rendering or even put on a virtual reality headset and step inside the space.

Now clients can see three-dimensional renderings early in the design process, and even step inside them and suggest changes with VR tech. Hutton says that means health care clients, for example, could even suggest changes in a surgical suite before a single brick has been laid.

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There is a range of design elements that EAPC, and designers around the country, can now use. This image depicts a dollhouse view of a floor plan — a 3D, bird’s-eye view of the interior structure of a building.

Hutton shares a range of images that show what EAPC, and designers around the country, can now do. There’s open-air renderings of buildings and a wide public space, what looks like a high-tech hospital room and even a dollhouse view of a floor plan — a three-dimensional, bird’s-eye view of the interior structure of a building.

“As architects and designers here, the only thing we really produce is a set of drawings – which doesn’t have a whole lot of value outside the person that wants to build it,” Hutton said. “We sell ideas here. That’s what we get paid for — bringing our ideas in our thoughts to paper and eventually to life. The more we can convey that to an owner ahead of time, the more likely they are to enjoy it.”

KLJ interstate project
For the Centennial Road and Bismarck Expressway Interchange with Interstate 94 in Bismarck, N.D., VISSIM models were used to show how alternative interchange designs could more efficiently move traffic and reduce congestion in the project area.

Those changes go beyond building design. Joe DeVore, an associate project manager with the engineering firm KLJ, recalls the firm designing a traffic interchange in Bismarck with the North Dakota Department of Transportation. New tech, he said, means that firms can design multiple options for interchanges like those — that helps the public give better feedback or even point out design flaws engineers might have overlooked. Images of some of those models look like scenes from a city-building video game, with delicate shades of green hills underneath layers of design and looping traffic patterns.

But there’s more. DeVore points out that traffic modeling tech helps engineers actually simulate traffic on interchanges like those, using data gathered from the community itself.

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“In the past, you’d go out to an intersection with a count board, and hit buttons every time a car goes through an intersection. Now we have a lot of different options,” he said. That could be a video camera at an intersection collecting traffic data, government traffic studies and even “big data” from cell phones and GPS devices.

SEH - Eisenhower Bridge
This 3D rendering depicts the Old Eisenhower Bridge (now called the Red Wing Eisenhower Bridge of Valor) near Red Wing, Minn. SEH was involved with preliminary design, construction management, and public engagement.

Vincent Caro is a senior digital designer with SEH. He points out that the coronavirus pandemic shifted the trajectory of all that technological progress a little. Some clients were suddenly less comfortable with VR headsets; that meant more emphasis on building spaces with video game engines and the like — one of the exciting frontiers in the future of rendering that includes 3D printing and more.

“What I discovered was the industry is continually providing these tools for engineers to make it easier for them to get into the 3D building space,” Caro said. “Building models and animating them and rendering them to make them realistic — it’s getting easier, it seems, every two or three years.”

That makes it an exciting time to be working with these kinds of renderings, Caro said. He’s relatively new to the field, with about three years with SEH; he recalls a high-detail bridge design that was a particular thrill to work on.

“A lot of these projects I’m really excited about, because I feel like I’m learning something new each time I do something,” he said.

Related Topics: ALL-ACCESS
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