The future has challenges but with great minds and tools we can overcome them. The entire architectural eco-system, from client, to architect, to engineers, to contractors and manufacturers, must continue to build knowledge, leverage tools, and be leaders in change if we hope to move the needle on important issues such as climate change and urbanization, just two of many that could be discussed.
Real-time visualization is something that can help us get there. Tools such as Enscape help us to understand the constructability of our concepts and validate our ideas, which is highly valuable for any project as it can help clients comprehend the result of their dreams, democratize visualization, shorten the feedback loop, and shape a new future.
Architecture: A Visual Medium
Architecture is all around us. It is where we live, work and play. It is functional, it is art. It is loved and hated. It protects us from storms and yet often represents a barrier to fresh outdoor air and nature. To be sure, architecture is a visual medium, and as such, must be experienced (physically or virtually) to fully be appreciated and understood.
For ages, architects have sought to balance a building’s aesthetics, performance, and cost. Creating beautiful yet functional and affordable buildings takes training, practice, and talent. Today we have digital tools like never before to aid in these areas. Tools for cloud-based cost estimates, tools for energy and daylight analysis, and tools to convey the design intent, even the aesthetic, to the otherwise untrained eye via real-time rendering.
Utilizing these modern digital tools and workflows, a building can have less of a negative impact on its surroundings and may even be regenerative. Saving mature vegetation, reducing non-porous surfaces and stormwater runoff, and more are all possible.
The Client Challenge
The client dreams of a new building, hires a design team, and wants to fully comprehend what the result of their dream and significant investment will be.
Buildings are three-dimensional, which of course everyone knows, but traditionally a proposed design solution has been presented two-dimensionally; on paper, boards on tripods, via PowerPoint, and occasionally with scaled physical models.
Architects and engineers are trained to create and understand these 2D documents and drawings. But not every client has the experience or ability to learn enough about the design to understand it well enough to be confident they know what the result will be at the conclusion of construction.
Two-dimensional drawings of floor plans, elevations, sections, and static 3D views often do not tell the whole story. This creates a challenge for the design team, which often results in trying to describe the design verbally in meetings, follow-up phone calls, and even on the construction site. Not being able to get client approval in a timely manner can take time away from refining the design, completing construction documents, and negatively affect the overall completion schedule.
Context is important when considering the development of a new building. Will the urban fabric in which the building might exist improve or degrade its surroundings, e.g. micro-climate - wildlife, vegetation, heat island effect, wind, and more? Designing and presenting using today’s real-time rendering tools, and including context, support the design team in making more informed decisions throughout the design process.
Clients, key project stakeholders, and end users greatly benefit from experiencing their project, which may be the culmination of their life’s work in some cases, in an immersive three-dimensional way. Whether it be a real-time walkthrough on-screen or an experiential virtual reality exploration, the building’s proportions, adjacencies, and relationships are better understood by everyone involved.
Unlike just a few years ago, using today’s real-time rendering software, designers are able to continuously review and visually validate their design efforts every step of the way. Gone are the days of waiting hours or days to render a static 3D view or video. Now, architects and engineers can move through the project at the same final-render quality. This gives designers and clients unprecedented access to the entire project, including its systems, structure, and context.
Democratization is often an overused word, but in the realm of architectural visualization, the entire design team can explore small to large projects with ease using Enscape. No longer is a specialist required or the need to outsource the rendering work and then wait for the results while the design continues to evolve. Everyone on the team can access the most current design, explore it in a more natural way, and even create issues directly within Enscape - making revisions more organized, integrated, and accountable. Thus, access to the entire team, with a flattened learning curve and an affordable cost, visualization has been democratized when compared to the recent past!
Shortening the Feedback Loop
Architects and engineers are always looking for ways to be more efficient in their practice. The goal is not to finish the project early and make more money, but often it is to have more time to develop the design solution and create a better project for the client and the environment. This means any tool or workflow that can reduce time and effort or shorten the feedback loop with the client is highly valuable.
Not all new design technology is easy to use, cost-effective, or what it was promised to be. Great tools tend to be adopted organically and from within the teams doing the work. This is certainly true with Enscape as evidenced by the fact that 85 of the top 100 firms are using it. With Enscape’s real-time rendering and live-sync technology, designers are able to see their design changes almost instantly while working in their primary design platform, such as Autodesk Revit.
Enscape’s real-time rendering can be used in all phases of a project, for example:
|Design development||User groups|
Real-time rendering can be used to walk new clients through previous projects you have completed without the need to travel to the built project. For a new high school project, for example, navigating the pool, locker rooms, and related mechanical room, the design team can explain the highlights about previous projects, set expectations, and draw out any concerns or questions the client might have.
Early in the design process, the team is looking at massing, site orientation, daylight, and early energy consumption metrics. Presenting the proposed design solutions, along with quality Enscape-generated graphics, can help the client understand the information and make better-informed decisions which could affect aesthetics and long-term operating costs.
One of the most valuable times to employ real-time rendering is during design development. In addition to internal design team reviews, the client can experience the beginning of their project on-screen and in virtual reality. Ensuring the client understands the proposed design solution at this juncture in the project is incredibly critical. Changes are much more easily made to the design at this time, based on client and stakeholder feedback.
During the formal documentation phase of the developed design, using real-time rendering to track issues and monitor the implementation of materials and details can make a big difference in the final project.
With several designers working in an Autodesk Revit model, for example, the interconnectedness or ability to change many instances across the entire project can sometimes lead to unintended consequences. Using real-time rendering, it is easy to discover these changes early and rectify them before causing issues in the field, which has the potential of compromising functionality and design intent.
On many projects, some material and installation decisions are left for the construction phase due to the nature of competitive bidding and means-and-methods of the contractor awarded the project. Real-time rendering can be used to visualize the selection of final materials and FF&E layouts. This can be highly effective in virtual reality, as it empowers the client to explore the project at their own pace and go to areas that are important to them or where they still have questions.
Shaping a New Future
Today’s architects have access to some amazing tools to help combat climate change. For example, developing a predictive energy use intensity (EUI) has never been easier using Autodesk’s Revit + Insight, or Solemma’s new Climate Studio. Additionally, lighting analysis can be achieved with Autodesk’s Lighting Analysis add-in for Revit, Lighting Analyst’s Revit add-in Elumtools, and Climate Studio/Diva for Rhino.
Enscape can help with preliminary lighting analysis while in its Lighting mode. Whole building life cycle analysis (LCA) tools are important to study and reduce embodied carbon, and tools like EC3, Tally and Burro Happold’s The BHoM are leading the charge! And last, but not least, are wind analysis tools to study a project’s micro-climate before and after the proposed design solution, with options like SimScale, Autodesk CFD, and ENVI_met.
The need for new and improved infrastructure and buildings will continue to grow due to urbanization. Design and construction professionals need to work together, share knowledge, and rise to the challenge. Architects can even be more formal about their intent by joining the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2030 Commitment, which requires signatory firms to submit energy use information for their entire portfolio annually.
While a real-time rendering tool such as Enscape may not be able to directly solve most of these challenges, it can certainly play a part in helping depict a narrative and educate through high-quality visualizations. Whether it be a presentation on a more efficient mechanical room layout or a proposed habitat on the planet Mars, real-time rendering and virtual reality can help inform the client, stakeholders, and general public. This leads to improved communication, increased trust, and shared visions that will help any project, effort, or movement.
The tools are there, ready for you! The use of real-time visualization has led to a paradigm shift in the AEC industry. Never has there been a nearly instant access to a single-source-of-truth (BIM) and virtual reality software available to every designer on a project.