Geoffrey Bell

Virtual Reality technology has revolutionized the building and design industry by providing the ability to experience spaces before they're built, says WIRED's Sam Lubell. Both designers and clients are drawn into a world where the lines between the imagination and reality are blurred, breaking the mold where previously, visualization was only available in 2D.

After experiencing their work in VR, designers sometimes find themselves radically rethinking a building’s scale and materials, and clients elect to change plans, green lighting ideas they once regarded as too costly. New York-based Ennead Architects has used VR to help users visualize not just space but data in three dimensions. Various colored blocks, for instance, display which parts of their future Shanghai Planetarium will get hit with the most light. (Redder blocks signify more light exposure.) Another outfit, Portland-based ZGF Architects, has used Iris on more than 50 projects since first using it late last year, says Simon Manning, the firm’s VR specialist and model shop director. Design principals give feedback on projects while in VR, with staff making changes to the original designs in real time, altering, for instance, lighting and ceiling heights.

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