Communicating Ideas by Previewing Reality

The exchange of ideas and concepts is a major part of any large modern building project. Architects, investors, general contractors and sub-contractors all use different tools to form both mental and modeled images of what the end result will look like. When some parties rely on renders or fly-throughs and others use 2D drawings, it can lead to communication difficulties. Reynaers discovered that by bringing together collaborators from different disciplines in its Avalon, the fog of misunderstandings evaporates and difficult decisions can be made on the spot.

How Do They Do It?

Reynaers’ AVALON is a high end, projection-based virtual reality room specifically configured for architectural applications. Since 2017, it has allowed visitors to literally step inside and experience a 3D visualization of complex architectural models and real-time rendering with Unreal Engine software.

The platform is popular for design evaluation; it allows changes on the go and immersive, up-close 3D model views, as well as facilitating complex technical evaluations and BIM, which can mitigate costly building mistakes and maximize efficiency from the outset of the design process. 

After years of successfully facilitating design ideas using VR, AVALON has produced many useful insights, the most important being not to treat VR as a gimmick or a pure sales tool. When a building team visits the Reynaers Campus in Belgium, Reynaers can go beyond the standard question "What window system are you interested in?" and focus on "What problems in the project can we help solve?".

Project: Rijks School, Nijmegen, The Netherlands designed by Mecanoo. Image Courtesy of Mecanoo

Just like a good movie has a well-structured script, a productive meeting has a well-organized agenda. With the amount of 3D data available on projects and the ease of creating visualizations from this data, there is a risk of creating overwhelmingly extensive visualization. Concentrating on only a few parts - carefully selected by the visitors - within the virtual project, the level of detail and quality of those parts can really be pushed to the limits of the software. The guests can, and usually do, still wander around the whole site after spending time on the more detailed spaces.

To further facilitate this collaborative methodology, Reynaers has recently expanded its portfolio of tools with a desktop variant of AVALON. This game-like application includes enough features to allow more people to collaborate with each other remotely, reducing the need for the entire project team to travel to Belgium. The initial desktop visualization can still be complemented with a visit to AVALON by a smaller team to tackle the most difficult issues.

Successful Collaboration

The Forestias project under development in Bangkok, Thailand is an ambitious project which aims to create an environmentally friendly neighborhood in the Bang Na district replete with forests, wildlife and streams. In the Mulberry Grove The Forestias Villas, a part of the larger Forestias project, there was a need to facilitate communication between the developer MQDC, architecture firm Foster + Partners and window fabricator AAGC.

The project is made up of modern condos which have a large number of windows and sliding doors. 3D models of the joinery were integrated into the architectural models from the architect for detailed technical review and aesthetic evaluation. Technical 3D-models from the fabricator were used to make virtual mock-ups that could show, for example, the integration of air-conditioning above the windows with access from the outside.

Courtesy of Reynaers Aluminium

The local representatives of Reynaers could leverage the skills of the AVALON team at HQ to ensure efficient communication between stakeholders, using the same data to create visual aids for different venues, from executables to running on a PC to immersive virtual reality environments in AVALON.

In this case, stakeholders MQDC, Foster + Partners, AAGC and Reynaers initially discussed the project through the desktop application, and then expanded the scope to a more detailed visualization in AVALON, where they spent 3 hours together in the VR room to make the crucial decisions.

Adapting to COVID-19

The current global pandemic has meant that some international visitors can no longer reach the Reynaers Campus. With this challenge in mind, the team chose to innovate and pivot towards these game-like applications. The tool existed before, but the right mindset throughout the company and the flexible software setup allowed them to easily transfer the same 3D data from one platform to another. An interactive graphical view can be priceless when discussing details of facades, joinery and the building itself, and Reynaers aims to deliver just that, whatever the circumstances.

Cite: "Communicating Ideas by Previewing Reality" 24 Jun 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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