Building information modeling (BIM) software is used by companies across the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) industry to document, visualize, and develop designs for infrastructure. Numerous software packages are available in the market to meet the needs of the AEC industry. Last week, Architizer Editor-in-Chief Paul Kisky hosted a webinar on the art of architectural rendering with Roderick Bates, Head of Integrated Practices at Enscape, one of the software solutions companies. Listeners from around the world tuned in to their discussion, “How to Build Inclusivity into the Design Process Using Real-time Visualization.”
“While it’s a great tool for what it is, it’s for trained professionals,” says Bates. “It’s not for the end user of the building.” Stakeholders—particularly customer groups or the public—neither have the expertise to navigate BIM models nor interpret traditional construction drawings. “If you try to communicate BIM, you’re excluding stakeholders from getting a full understanding of what that design is.”
Enscape’s real-time rendering software integrates with major CAD platforms. Offering expertise to architecture firms, and as a “conduit for customer feedback,” Bates’ focus is ensuring that Enscape products meet the needs of the AEC industry. Enscape builds bridges between the necessarily complex and perhaps abstract BIM/CAD interface and the reality of the project being created. This helps both designers and their clients visualize what the design will look like when built. Bates says, “To the BIM data, we add key components—motion, spatial exploration, and engagement—to allow for a comprehensive and broad understanding of building design.”
Presentation slide Understanding Virtual Space L) frontal elevation c) lateral elevation R) visible through motion, Image by Enscape
To illustrate these three components, Bates cited a series of studies testing participants in virtual reality environments.
Elevations or similar graphics are too far from reality for many to understand them at a sufficient level to make quick, informed design decisions. However, an entry a movement It helps – when you see something from multiple points of view over a short period of time, it becomes easier to understand.
Presentation slide “Understanding Virtual Space” L) 2D state C) static 3D state R) immersive 3D state, image from Enscape
spatial exploration Also important for understanding – it unlocks people’s ability to navigate a space on their own and create mind maps. Bates cited a recent study where participants in teams of three were tasked with choosing an apartment based on digital offers. As one might expect, 3D virtual environments are much more effective at supporting understanding of space than 2D displays of information. However, Bates noted that while 3D immersion is best for individual understanding, static 3D images are best for joint understanding and group decision making.
To illustrate the third component, linkBates referred to a VR user study that looked at the effect of visual complexity on users’ spatial orientation. When participants viewed 3D maps with different levels of detail (building blocks, terrain, etc.), the added visual complexity made it easier to locate them and increased the overall attractiveness of the environment.
Levels of Detail presentation slide, Inscape image
So, what does this mean in the context of design?
The tool provides a variety of ways in which information can be presented. For example, ‘white mode’ (isolated form) helps focus attention on specific details, while more details are conducive to increasing interest and engagement around a particular design.
In Enscape’s current offering, users can flag and make comments, however, it didn’t have the kind of oomph they were hoping for. Users would like a more casual, inclusive interface, such as a scratch pad, “something that doesn’t define the device, has a user-friendly interface, and is easy to use,” Bates says.
Enscape is actively exploring a product concept called “Collaborative Annotations” where users are equipped with a drawing tablet and can draw and annotate directly on top of the drawing and share comments across the entire design team. “It’s an accessible way to provide accurate feedback on the design, and to increase their overall level of engagement and agency.”
Image “Real-time annotation – collaborative annotation”, by Enscape
Enscape’s product is constantly evolving, and the company looks to users to return their current and future needs, to ensure that they are included in the product roadmap.
Audience questions included software, augmented reality, volume issues, and different types of users. One webinar survey asked, “What is the biggest challenge when it comes to communicating with customers?” To which the audience overwhelmingly responded: “Ensuring customers understand what is being proposed,” and “Visualizations take a long time to create.”
One of the challenges designers face is that realistic graphics early in the process tend to scare people off, because they feel like the design is already done. Echoing the audience’s comments, Keskeys discussed the desire for RT shows that look more like a sketch—less realistic, less permanent—calling on stakeholders to mark/crop/rearrange the way they would like a scale model or loose sketch. “It fills a gap in the physical model on the table that has been the transition as part of the architect’s presentation and the transition into the digital realm… innovative ways of combining the two.” This is also something Inscape is looking at.
These types of emerging technologies can bring stakeholders who have no experience of “reading” graphics to truly understand the design (at any stage) in a way that enables them to gain valuable input into the project itself.
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This story is not intended as an endorsement by UrbanToronto of this software solution over other possible solutions, and no promotional fees were paid for its publication.
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