In this article, Architect, Emma Ibbotson explains how France + Associates are using state-of-the-art VR technology to enhance the design process for clients, and how virtual reality is set to become an integral part of the future of architecture.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment, that allows the user to feel fully immersed in their surroundings.
Originally developed to give users an interactive experience, VR technology has historically been used within the gaming industry. However, in more recent years, advancements in this technology have seen it emerge into other industries, including education, travel, healthcare and architecture.
With high resolution imagery, and the ability to ‘step into’ a virtual environment, it comes as no surprise that architects are embracing VR technology to improve and speed up the design process, from the initial stages, right through to the completion of a project.
In 2021, France + Associates invested in a VR Headset that features a ‘halo’ headband, designed to be comfortable for the user to wear and touch controllers to enable the user to ‘navigate’ around their virtual reality.
The use of VR technology is a big step forward for architects, we can transform traditional 2D plans into fully immersive, tangible 3D plans, that allow our clients to see and experience their new home before the build has even begun.
Once a plan has been agreed with the client, and is ready to be submitted to planning, I will start drawing a plan of their house using 3D software.
Used by architects, the software allows users to extrude 2D plans into 3D, with absolutely everything modelled, from wall build ups, to the roof, flooring and windows.
Once a 3D design has been created, I synchronise the file with rendering software. This is where I add context to the design, such as furniture, people, vehicles and landscapes. This sophisticated software is so advanced, that it even enables me to set the weather, add shadows and include everyday noises to create a truly realistic experience.
When the 3D design is ready, our clients can then use the headset to ‘walk-through’ every room of their new home, using the touch controllers to navigate them.
One of the greatest challenges faced by architects and designers is effectively communicating the proposed plans to their client. Many people often struggle to visualise how a 2D plan will look in ‘real-life’, and in some cases this can be the main reason why projects are delayed.
By giving clients a clear representation of how their home will look, we are finding that we are having to make fewer revisions to designs, which is streamlining the process for everyone involved.
The beauty of VR is that it allows clients to fully engage and integrate with proposed designs from inception through to completion. The detailed graphics allow everyone involved in the project the opportunity to experience every element of the proposed build, from the space to placement of furniture and discreet finishing touches.
The graphics are so detailed that every element of the home can be ‘seen’ before we even start building, from vaulted ceilings, to light fittings, plug sockets and pictures on the walls.
Many of our clients require homes that are accessible, and an important aspect of these designs is creating enough space for them to navigate around their home. In many cases, clients and their families are moving from a smaller, unsuitable home to a much bigger space, and they often have concerns that their new home will not be big enough for equipment such as wheelchairs and walking aids. VR technology allows us to clearly communicate the scale of the building, which can put their concerns at ease and show them how functional their new home will be.
Another concern for many people, is that their home will feel ‘clinical’ due to the adaptations and specialist equipment that is often required to meet their needs. At France + Associates, we are passionate about designing accessible homes that avoid clinical finishes, but have all the medically acceptable adaptations required, such as therapy rooms, hydrotherapy pools and profiling beds. VR technology allows us to accurately depict how the interior of the home will look with these in situ and facilitates a greater understanding of the final finish.
Before a person living with a disability is due to move into their new home, their care team will often need to visit the site to help them create a care plan for their client. VR technology mitigates the need for them to have to physically visit the home, which can save time and the additional costs associated with site visits.
We put the client at the heart of every design, and where possible, we include them at every stage of the design process. Many of our clients are children and young adults, and we love to include them in the design of their home from the outset. The VR headset gives them the opportunity to accurately envisage their home and be involved in the decision-making process, to ensure that they are happy with the completed project.
The introduction of VR in architecture is an absolute game-changer for clients. They can fully understand and ‘see’ their home before it is even built. The decision-making process is so much quicker, with even the smallest features being visible from the start.
VR technology also makes the whole process inclusive, with adults and children alike able to use the headset and enjoy the experience of seeing their home at every stage of the build.
For architects, it allows us to ‘step-into’ our builds so that we can intuitively design a home that best meets our clients needs, which is our aim with every single project.
Our team will be showcasing the VR Headset at the Bush & Co conference, ‘Resilience Unwrapped’ on the 7th July 2022. Visit us on Stand 29 for a demonstration!
Emma started working at France + Associates in 2020, and has experience in a variety of sectors ranging from private bespoke residential projects, commercial buildings, and large residential schemes.
Emma holds an important role with the F+A team to add creative design and flair to new projects, as well as managing projects through to completion as Contract Administrator.
For more information, contact us on
01484 960560 or email us +
Related News +