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ArchiTech: from CAD to BIM to AR and VR

Posted June 05, 2017 11:00 AM by MaggieMc

Architectural design has come a long way from hand drafted plans, but it will likely go much farther after the inaugural Tech+ expo that took place on May 23, 2017. The expo welcomed 500 architects, designers, and tech experts to “get the low-down on how technology is shaping the built environment.”

According to the expo’s host, The Architect’s Newspaper, the exposition was aimed at “discussing and showcasing technology that is developing a role within the design process of numerous firms and enhancing client-architect relationships.”

Clients often struggle to visualize plan and section views, especially if they have little practice exercising their spatial ‘muscles.’ Google plans to help resolve this issue as Aaron Luber, who leads content partnerships and business development for Google’s AR/VR “Daydream/Tango” team, discussed at the conference. Luber expects almost all Android phones to be running Tango by 2018, which would be able to work with AutoCAD and computer aided drawing (CAD) or building information modeling (BIM) software to “allow clients to view their projects on site” via an additional software called “Trimble.”

While Trimble functions as more of an augmented reality (AR), many virtual reality (VR) firms showcased their latest products at the show.

Starbucks Japan has already demonstrated a version of VR in their design processes in 2016. While the client-architect relationship for Starbucks is internal, they still feel VR allows them to collaborate more smoothly.

In 2009, Starbucks Japan’s designers converted from 2D CAD software, moving to Revit, a 3D BIM software. At the time, each designer jumped into the program without training discovering their own work method, according to Mayu Takashima, head of the design team. The process later became more cooperative as they attempted to align the different designs.

This shift made it much easier to get “the money shot”—a 3D representation of the design—for their colleagues on the business-operations side of the company since the 2D plans had been much more difficult for non-designers to comprehend.

Now, with the implementation of VR, it will be even easier for their internal beneficiaries to comprehend their vision.

Luckily for those who find plans and models to be more their forte, Graphisoft, known for sparking “the BIM revolution” with ArchiCAD in 1984, revealed how their software can convert section and plan drawings to 3D models, making it possible for the client to be involved in the design process while it’s happening. It also allows 3D models to be shared via smartphone.

All in all, it seems architecture will be taking a much more virtual approach—at least until the real structural and construction work begins.

Still, as someone who was enamored with getting graphite and watercolors on my hands as I bent over her mayline ruler, I have to wonder if we are losing something to the technology. For now, I’ll have to embrace it and just wait to see!

Image credits: ArchDaily and The Architect's Newspaper

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