How to use Virtual Reality in architecture?

Nowadays, if you want to stay competitive and successful in business, you have to keep abreast of the latest technologies. Customers prefer solutions that can provide more benefits and opportunities. Virtual reality technology has seen rapid developments in recent years and this is most apparent in the architectural, engineering and construction industry. It helps to represent objects in conditions as close as possible to real ones, and as a result not to lose money on fixing bugs during the construction. Every design will soon be made using virtual reality; enabling the user to fully immerse himself in a 1:1-scale, 3D (BIM) model which can be manipulated and provides an incredibly accurate sense of presence in a space that’s yet to be built. Urban bureaus can use VR to visualize monuments, buildings and other cultural and historical heritage.

It’s all about visualization

If you have had any experience in the realm of architecture or design, one of the most difficult challenges could be visualizing a space. Properly visualizing not only helps bring ideas to reality but appropriately helps tackle other must-do things like construction logistics, proper types of materials and the reality of your design concept. in the process of project approval and management, you might have got familiar with the situation when your client paid attention to one detail and didn’t want to see the rest. For example, he was irritated with a color of the floor, so didn’t want to accept the whole concept. Virtual reality could make this process far easier, allowing you and your client to ‘step into’ a building or a room, get the whole picture, and change details.

Application of virtual realityvisualization in architecture allows you to check out specific elements, materials, environments, and construction needs. Virtualist app allows you to change lighting, texturing and object attributes in real time and interact with the virtual world. 

Moreover, with VR you can bring to life some of the environmental factors that may impact even the whole building (not just interiors). For example, overlay VR environment data with your project to test safety elements, sunlight, heat exposure and so on. It will make possible to use environmental data to check out how the sunlight looks in a specific room. Finally, this visual feedback can be recorded and incorporated into the final design.

Сonstruction does not stand aside

Let’s start with a real example. The Royal Academy of Arts has unveiled a series of installations that show how virtual and augmented reality technologies can change the experience of buildings and spaces.

VR in Royal Academy of Arts
Photo by NAARO

Entitled ‘Real Virtuality’, the project uses Microsoft hololens headsets (mixed reality smartglasses) to communicate directly between a digital model and a physical space, resulting in a pre-fabricated design that may be assembled quickly and efficiently. These headsets were used to overlay a digital model of the envisioned design in the exhibition space, indicating the position of the new intervention. As the timber blocks (look at the picture) are modular and the design is not fixed, adaptations could be made there and then, resulting in a more efficient process. This installation has perfectly shown how VR and AR can be used not only during the design and evaluation steps of the project but also for its construction.

Give your clients the opportunity to make a choice

One of the most common challenges faced by architects and designers is convincing a client that a design works, before receiving valuable  feedback that can be integrated into a finished design. That’s why Swedish furniture producer IKEA is offering its customers Virtual Reality Kitchen Experience. Using a VR headset, a client can choose different kitchen styles, customize it by changing the colour of the cabinets and drawers, walk around, and interact with other objects – open drawers, put a frying pan on the stove, place vegetable peelings in the waste sorting station. 

Ikea VR kitchen
Photo by IKEA

IKEA’s virtual kitchen can also be viewed from different perspectives, imitating a 1 meter-tall child or a 1.95 meter-tall adult. These features may help people understand how it feels to be in their customized kitchen and avoid any design issues. So why not to try the same approach in your project? Of course, floor plans, 3D renderings, and models are often used to convey an idea for a particular space within a design, but in comparison with VR, even these tools can fail to effectively ‘communicate’ with clients.

As in the example above, the software developed by Virtualist allows users to walk around the objects and inspect them from every angle and feel the real scale of an object no matter if it’s a new wardrobe or wind turbine.

A few words about additional features: upgrade your portfolio…

Using VR for your designer portfolio is a great way to showcase your design skills and also confirm that you have experience with some of the latest technologies in this industry. The idea of having a VR-based project means that you can take it anywhere without lugging around heavy equipment, folders, or other briefcases – you can simply use your phone (our app also runs on Android and soon iOS) or a pair of wireless VR glasses (Oculus Quest). It works as an extension of your digital portfolio with the added advantage that your audience can view the spaces in 360°. This creates a feeling of presence and enables a better understanding of your work. 

..or use virtual reality as a new tool for teaching architecture

Combine all these elements above and you will realize that virtual reality in architecture has the potential to be an excellent tool for education too. And it is already a reality. Professors at NYIT School of Architecture and Design have already established a functioning protocol for exporting architects digital models. Students from Project Integration Studio test out their own designs by “walking through” the compositions with the VR tool. Of course, it helped them to evaluate projects more carefully and find out what mistakes might have been made. Moreover, due to VR students and junior architects can investigate various architectural strategies. e.g. environmental conceptualism, building function, user interaction, and construction techniques.

Virtual reality is changing almost every major creative field.  Architecture too. During the Interior Design Show West 150 participants (Interior Designers, Architects and others) were asked to experience four different scenes that showcased different elements that can be integrated into a custom VR experience: the kitchen scene, the living room, the panoramic views, and the modular space.

97.4% were very satisfied overall with the experience. 83.8% of participants rated the experience a 4/5 or 5/5 in terms of “how realistic the quality of the scenes”.

Relevance of VR in Architecture
Graph by LNG Studios
Occupations of VR users
Graphs by LNG Studios

As you can see, the virtual reality technology in architecture allows clients to interact with a proposed model, e.g. be able to open and close doors and windows, switch lights on and off, and move objects around the space. As a result, you receive a detailed client’s feedback and can make your model even better before the release.

Learn more about virtual reality for architecture.

7 thoughts on “How to use Virtual Reality in architecture?”

  1. Great write up – thank you! It is indeed very true that “the emergence of virtual reality applications for architecture has been one of the big stories of the past few years ”. Virtual reality in architecture solves many problems including:
    1. Poor design visualization
    2. Multiple design iterations
    3. Dealing with different design tools
    4. Poor coordination with other project stakeholders
    I’d like to add one more to the list of startups here: is the latest to have come up with a VR-based fully immersive product that dramatically improves design collaboration between all stakeholders – architects, clients and building product manufacturers. They’ve been helping people overcome these problems across markets in the last year and merit a deeper dive.

  2. Thank you for the good writeup. It actually was a entertainment
    account it. Look complex to more added agreeable from you!
    However, how could we communicate?


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