How Clients Can Experience a Project Before it’s Built: Virtual Reality Architecture


Curtis Miner Architecture Sets the Utah Architecture Trends in VR, 360 Cameras, and Architectural Rendering

Not so very long ago, it was a client’s best guess to know what their project would look and feel like upon completion. For larger projects, a client might be willing to pay for an architectural rendering or illustration, or a two-dimensional image showing the features of their proposed design.

Today, a client can experience their project fairly early in the process. Through architectural visualization, also called virtual reality architecture, a three-dimensional rendering allows the architect, interior designer, consulting team, client – heck, anyone who wants to and has the right equipment – to view the space as if it were already built.


Using Two Types of VR Architecture

Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA) uses two forms of Virtual Reality Architecture. First is static 360-degree panoramas viewed on a smart phone through the free Scope VR app with the phone held in a Google Cardboard or similar viewer. This provides a 360-degree view of a space from a single vantage point. Since these are relatively inexpensive, CMA can keep a few on hand to provide clients with easy anywhere-anytime access to a virtual view of their project.


Cardboard VR Goggles (photo from Flickr)

The firm also use a VR headset (HTC Vive), which allows the user to walk through the virtual space. This option requires a powerful computer, so it’s not as easily shared. “Both of these give our clients an interactive experience allowing them to gain some special awareness of each of their spaces,” explains Visualization Specialist Ian Anderson, “This eliminates surprising the client and gives them confidence in the design before construction begins.”


VR Headset

Creating 3D Renderings

To create those final, viewable renderings, CMA starts by creating a model in a program such as Revit, and using a software called Lumion to produce the 3D renderings, which communicate the size, shape, form, and materials of the project in a visual way. These renderings can be created in many different styles, from sketchy low fidelity images focusing on form to photo-realistic illustrations focusing on material and color and final aesthetic.


Working in Lumion

VR and Existing Conditions

CMA also uses a 360 camera, which allows for documenting existing conditions in a space with a single file by creating a 360-degree panorama, instead of documenting a space with multiple pictures and having to manually piece the pictures together to determine what we are looking at.

By integrating VR into the design process, CMA clients play a more active role; they are better able to experience their projects long before any dirt is moved. Decisions can be made with confidence, translating into a smoother build. “Seeing our client’s reactions after we have spent numerous hours developing and designing a space for them is by far the best part of using VR,” says Ian, “As designers, we sometimes take for granted how incredible the software is and what advantages technology gives us in today’s world.”