Ten years ago when I was pioneering offering unlimited 3D drawings for all my clients, I would have laughed out loud about the possibility of also offering virtual reality tours of the homes I was designing. Today, Virtual Reality is a reality and it is transforming home design.

I had started offering 3D renderings because I knew that understanding traditional architectural drawings was difficult for non-architects. (Just as dentistry would be difficult for me.) My clients are very smart, but when they saw the flat, 2D drawings they felt less smart… With traditional drawings, most people are able to fully understand only about 50% of what their completed project will look like. By offering 3D drawings, I was able to get the percentage up to about 95%. The allusive 5% was left in small nooks and generally unseen areas like bedroom ceilings. Today, with the aid of virtual reality, I believe clients can now visualize 100% of their home design.

Clients are no longer confused by the drawings; instead they feel very confident. Confident that they are making informed decisions and making the right choices for their dream home. Using virtual reality gives the architect and client the tools to understand one another. Put those goggles on, and suddenly you get to completely see your future home months before we break ground. Instead of being left to try and interpret the drawings, clients are now offering ideas and suggestions for changes that will enhance their enjoyment of their home. Changes at this point are far easier to make versus once we are in construction. Anyone who’s built a house knows change orders are costly and no fun for anybody involved. Some industry experts estimate that change orders can eat up 10-20% of your budget. From a financial standpoint, using this technology reduces, and can sometimes eliminate all change orders.

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In addition to being able to see the home, one of the most unexpected benefits to me has been giving clients the ability to feel to what the house will be like. Letting them look up, down, sideways and truly experience their space. Once you put on the virtual reality goggles, you can see in the span of 10 seconds, a pan across the room from sunup to sunset. You have the opportunity to see the space at different points of the day from first morning light, to the evening sunset, to lights off in the morning and on at night. You can envision your life in the space. Think about your morning routine. Imagine sitting in your favorite chair reading a book. Visualize taking a needed break to look outside the window onto your property and experience the serenity.

Most of my clients purchase a wooded lot, tear down the house, and build a new one. It is important that we offer them the ability to experience their property in addition to their new home. With virtual reality, they can step into a manicured grass lawn, or a yard that hasn’t been mowed for a couple weeks. Just as we can change the interior lighting based on the time of day, we can also show what it will be like to be in the sunny backyard of your future. We can take away or add tress—add a little wind and see how the trees sway. Winter to summer is just a click away too. We can add water features, wildflowers, butterflies and birds. The experience is very vivid.

There is also a huge benefit to see how paint colors change depending on the lighting, how the natural light will affect the tones of the house (or not). In the future, we’ll be adding the able to specify the type of lights, like LED, and their light temperature. Everything is a piece of the puzzle, you can see how it all fits together and explore it early in the process because of virtual reality.

Seeing Your Home in Virtual Reality for the First Time.

The level of detail we achieve is amazing. The reactions are priceless.

I debuted the virtual reality (VR) technology this fall. I’ve now given two VR presentations. One client invited her father and the other client invited her friends. Guests don’t usually come to my other presentations. This was a new and exciting experience for them and me.

Clients David and Lisa are only just filing for building permits, but they’ve already walked around their contemporary dream house. They’ve discovered the flow from room to room. We discussed many options and tried out different scenarios. For example, we set up the house for a dinner party. We wanted to answers one of the most popular questions clients ask: “How will my house feel with 20 people? What about a big Christmas party for 50 people?” The level of reassurance they now have that nothing will be a surprise when the house is built is priceless.

Lisa is the one who brought her father. Lisa put on the VR goggles first, her husband second, then her dad. Lisa’s father also happens to be a retired architect who is very talented in his own right and has designed countless buildings in D.C. He didn’t want to take the goggles off. The experience we’d created was so fully immersive. He was captivated by this ability to ‘see into the future.’ Soon after, he got together with some of his architect friends, everyone had a million questions about the new technology and because he’d experienced it for himself, he had a million answers … It was an enlightening experience for all.

Virtual Reality Technology for Home Tours

For years, I had been offering unlimited 3D drawings for every project. An associate of mine said, “The difference between what you do and virtual reality is a fairly small leap. You’ve already made the model; it’s not that hard to take the next step into virtual reality.” My curiosity was piqued and I was determined to take this technological leap. I invested the time to perfect the models and took every opportunity to create the best experience.

For most of my clients, it’s the first time they are wearing VR goggles so it had to be easy, seamless, and comfortable—they are not generally gamers after all. I invested in the best VR goggles. Clients can even wear their glasses underneath the goggles. I purchased a top of the line virtual reality software program that works with architectural drafting and 3D modeling program. The benefit to this is seamless updates. I can update the model in all the views across programs. For example, my client says, “Let’s get rid of that brick wall. I’d prefer stone.” One click. Brick turns to stone. They can see it in the VR and 3D views and the flat traditional drawings needed for permits and contractors are also updated.

For me, it’s fun. The jump from 3D to VR was relatively small, but hugely impactful. My clients don’t have to learn “Greek,” to be able to read blueprints. VR is the translation app we’ve always wanted and frankly needed as an industry. Clients can articulate what they want with confidence. And I say, “Put the goggles on. Did we get it exactly right?”

My plan is to offer “Walk-in-Wednesday.” Let’s say it will be the last Wednesday of the month and contractors, clients, potential clients, realtors or really anyone can come into my office and experience virtual reality home tours. The future is here. Come take a look.