How new technologies are driving the future of architectural visualization
From VR walkthroughs to real-time visualizations via the cloud, find out how the latest innovations are taking architecture to the next level.
David Weir-McCall, Industry Marketing Manager - Architecture, Epic Games
New technologies are transforming architectural visualization, enabling workflows that are more streamlined than ever before. Innovations such as real-time rendering, cloud-based collaboration, and virtual reality (VR) are helping architects to bring their visions to life while transforming their workflows by dramatically speeding up the design review process.
The time-consuming nature of design review is one of the key challenges in architecture, with delays often causing deadlines to be pushed back and costs to rise. Another major issue is the need to communicate and collaborate remotely—something that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And until now, the scale and fidelity of remotely shared designs have been limited by legacy collaboration platforms. Traditional offline rendering software also means that architects are limited in what they can actually do with their 3D visualizations after they’ve been created.
The good news is that new technologies can help. Real-time 3D visualizations can now be created in a fraction of the time previously needed, thanks to the latest user-friendly interfaces, while Unreal Engine’s Pixel Streaming is becoming the standard way of sharing high-fidelity content remotely. VR is helping architects to convey their creative intent to clients, while real-time engine integration with other design tools, via plugins, is helping architects to take their real-time visualizations to the next level, making them more engaging and immersive.
Plenty of architects and archviz experts are already using these technologies to streamline design review and enhance their designs. Jonathan Reeves Architects is increasingly turning to real-time 3D rendering to showcase designs to customers, while Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) uses real-time technology to quickly iterate on concepts and communicate them to clients. Independent archviz specialist Paweł Rymsza is using Pixel Streaming to create immersive experiences for his clients, while Marraum Architects is already winning new business thanks to its VR walkthroughs. These are just a few examples of how new innovations are driving the future of architecture by helping architects to iterate faster, enhance their designs, and boost customer satisfaction.
Design review is a very time-consuming process, with stakeholders needing to review and modify designs at every stage. And it’s not always easy for everyone involved to visualize concepts or modifications to existing designs. This can slow down decision-making, causing deadlines to slip and overall costs to go up.
Remote communication with clients is more vital now than ever before, with the recent pandemic fuelling rapid digital transformation and driving us to work collaboratively in virtual spaces. Everyone involved in the design review process now needs to be able to communicate and share information in a way that matches up to our face-to-face meetings.
Scale and fidelity of shared designs have been seriously limited by older design and collaboration tools. Most of these legacy platforms rely on WebGL-based ways of sharing virtual content, which doesn’t deliver the best quality visualizations possible.
Traditional offline rendering software enables architects to create 3D visualizations but a lot of these tools are effectively dead ends. Architects might spend a lot of time building a visual layer with lots of detail, but then they can’t do anything more with it because it’s purely a visualization.
How new technologies can help
Real-time 3D visualizations can now be created much more quickly than before thanks to more user-friendly interfaces, compared to traditional rendering software. This speeds up the review process, and frees up more design time for architects. Some 19.21% of architects are already creating 3D renders using Twinmotion, according to the 2021 Architectural Visualization Rendering Engine Survey. This uptake is also reflected in Twinmotion’s growing market share of the real-time rendering engine space, which went up from 1.8% in 2016 to 19.21% in 2021.
Unreal Engine’s Pixel Streaming technology is rapidly replacing WebGL-based ways of sharing content, enabling architects to share high-fidelity real-time 3D visualizations at scale through the cloud. Powered by Pixel Streaming, Twinmotion Cloud Presentations are helping numerous architecture firms deliver complex visualizations with real-time technology in a reliable and seamless way, reducing design times and accelerating approval processes.
Virtual Reality (VR) is proving to be an incredibly useful technology for helping architects to communicate their vision. By simply putting on a VR headset, clients and other stakeholders can experience an immersive VR walkthrough of detailed architectural visualizations.
Real-time engine integration is helping architects to get more from their real-time visualizations. For example, the Datasmith Twinmotion Importer Plugin for Unreal Engine gives them the ability to start a project in Twinmotion and finish it in Epic’s Unreal Engine. Bridging Twinmotion designs with Epic’s powerful real-time engine means that visualizations can be pushed to the next level with unique and customized details. It also means that the model can potentially live on in another use case. The ability to boost visualizations with more dynamic detail marks an important step towards widespread content creation for the metaverse.
Many leaders in the architecture industry are already using the latest technological innovations to create more impactful visualizations while streamlining their workflow. Here are just a few examples of the organizations that are leading the way:
Jonathan Reeves Architects
Architects are increasingly turning to real-time 3D rendering to showcase their designs to clients, but they might not always have time to create high-end 3D visuals for every single project. Jonathan Reeves, founder of UK-based Jonathan Reeves Architects estimates that he now saves up to 70% of the time it used to take him to create 3D renders. “Twinmotion is the reason I can spend time doing 3D visualization again,” says Jonathan. “Previously it was taking too long so it wasn’t really cost-effective or viable. Twinmotion is a massive time-saver. It’s given me my 3D mojo back.”
Jonathan also finds Twinmotion Cloud to be an incredibly valuable tool for making his projects come alive. “What I like about it is that you can have a bit of fun with the client. If it’s near Christmas, you can make it snow and they love that, it helps you to build a rapport,” says Jonathan. “I call it PowerPoint on steroids!”
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
Globally renowned for its distinctive designs, UK-headquartered architecture studio Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) uses real-time technology to quickly iterate on concepts and communicate them to clients. ZHA focuses on user experience and trying to capture the perspective of someone traversing a space; the firm would previously only render scenes in complex detail for client reviews at a specific stage of the process as it was too time-consuming to do this early on. Real-time technology now enables the practice to add more detail earlier on in the process. “With Twinmotion, it’s easy to iterate, and to put in all the assets, even for internal reviews,” says Cesar Fragachan, a designer in the Computational Design Group at ZHA.
Describing this nondestructive workflow, Cesar says: “It helps us to produce better designs, and it helps in the review process—we can iterate much faster. We now try to do more iterations in the time we have. On one recent project, we managed to render about 20 potential options in 24 hours, which would have been impossible before.”
Real-time technology is also helping ZHA design for the future, including its work on Liberland, a futuristic virtual city designed to act as a networking hub for the crypto world. “We see the metaverse as a kind of digital twin,” says Cesar. “We get user feedback based on the digital experience and then we can take that feedback and make physical buildings even better. Having real-time technology involved is very useful in helping us to see how clients react and how they experience the space in the metaverse.”
Poland-based independent archviz specialist Paweł Rymsza creates videos to help architectural clients promote their work, with a focus on large residential projects. He sees Twinmotion as a great way to elevate his work, while Twinmotion Cloud makes it easy to present to anyone, anywhere, with no need for a high-spec PC. The immersive experience also helps clients to visualize the space much more easily.
“Twinmotion Cloud is the best way for a client to really understand ‘what is where’ in the project,” says Paweł.” When you run a video animation, there are always cuts between sequences so even when you show every single room of the apartment the client might still not fully understand the layout. With Twinmotion Cloud, the client is actively ‘walking’ around and understands the space much better.”
Increasingly, Pawełl’s clients are realizing the potential of these real-time presentations in comparison to still images when shown what they can do. As a result, he is confident that more of his clients will start to request Twinmotion Cloud presentations for their projects as standard going forward.
Based in Cornwall on England’s south coast, Marraum Architects has been working with VR visualizations for around six years. The firm’s interest in the technology was initially sparked when trying to convey to a client how a building design was tweaked to enable a particular coastal view. Starting out with a software package that only produced basic visuals, Marraum later moved to Twinmotion combined with a VR headset to help clients to visualize their design schemes.
The practice focuses predominantly on renovations for private clients. The ability to add details such as light and textures makes it easier for clients to get a feel for how the renovations will affect the space early on in the conceptual design phase, making the process much smoother.
“We're always striving to offer the best we can for our clients, to make sure that their understanding of their space is as clear as possible,” says Adam Laskey, Director at Marraum.
The VR approach is now standard at Marraum, and is already helping the company to win and retain clients. One such client commissioned Marraum for a renovation several years ago, which involved adjusting a coastal property to look towards the sea. After the property was successfully sold, the client went back to Marraum to design their dream home, a contemporary house with an unusual A-frame design. “One of the reasons they have returned to us is because of the VR experience that they previously had,” says Adam.
It’s clear that VR is helping Marraum to take the next step in architecture, not only helping clients to visualize the work, but also streamlining the conceptual design process and ensuring customer satisfaction. “It's about securing our client’s investment,” says Adam. “It's making sure that they understand what they are saying yes to. As a practice, we offer everything that's available, and commercially viable, to allow our clients to have that experience. When we're looking at it compared to what is standard, which is still 2D drawings, why would anyone spend their life savings on anything less?”
These are just a few examples of how forward-thinking leaders in the architecture world are using the latest technologies to transform the design review process. From real-time technology and Pixel Streaming to VR, these new innovations are helping architects to iterate faster, enhance their designs, and boost customer satisfaction, helping them to win and retain clients.