The Future of Architectural Renderings at IA is in Virtual Reality


By Guy Messick, AIA | Director of Design Intelligence | July 23, 2015


Image © IA Interior Architects.

The IA platform for the practice and delivery of architecture is centered on the use of Revit as our primary design authoring tool. Although the renderings and views we create from the Revit model are impressively photorealistic, we need to go further. Recently, our teams have begun to work with InsiteVR to transfer design models to virtual reality (VR) models in short order, with full geometries and materiality intact. IA is currently practicing major workflows that incorporate VR models.

The first process you think of for VR is, of course, design. This method, which gives our clients the ability to inhabit and interact with their space from any location, long before it is built, has proven to be a significant tool to enhance business decisions.

Walking a client through the VR environment. Photo © IA Interior Architects.


IA was about to finalize the Design Development phase of the project when our formal VR process came online. The client agreed to interface with our VR setup and found it to be an excellent, and kind of fun, tool to work through their design questions. In fact, they increased the construction budget by over 10% after their first “walk through” the VR model.


IA was recently engaged in a pilot project for a tech client that explored new design guidelines to be leveraged on a global scale. We turned to VR as the process best suited to inform the executive committee about the design intent, look, and feel of the concept. We are currently looking at VR as a tool to enhance our change management services for this client, as well. Imagine giving staff a fully immersive experience to learn about their new space before they move in!

Image © IA Interior Architects.


We’re working on a 500,000-square-foot, 28-story building, and our client will occupy the total space. How does one best convey a design of this scale and complexity to executives? Although our renderings, plans, and materials boards do a good job, as they have for decades, IA and its clients have found an immersive experience within the virtual space has no rival. Here we took six floors with unique design goals, and created a single VR environment directly from the Revit model.


Andrew Parsons, LEED AP, at SC Builders was able to walk through our VR environment prior to beginning construction for the Venture Capital project mentioned above, and in doing so found direct advantages. “It significantly reduced the time for me to familiarize myself with the space,” Parsons says. “I am someone who works with plans all of the time so I am well versed in visualizing spaces from documents, however most of the end users that we work with are not. I see VR as an extremely valuable tool to convey the feel of the space to end users with efficiency and precision more than traditional two-dimensional documents ever can.” As we enter into a new project delivery process involving more collaboration earlier, VR will become a standard tool for IA to interact with consultants and builders.


Our internal Technical Architecture staff has seen significant benefits to using VR as a tool to verify, and teach, proper constructability standards in IA projects. As Al Johansen, our Global Technical opined, “Once you have walked through a project, redlining paper alone just doesn’t cut it anymore.” Since finding the right problem to solve the right way is at the core of our architectural approach, we see VR as the “sharpest pencil” we have to engage this goal.

Now that we’ve found VR—and soon augmented reality—have major impacts across our practice, it is no longer a question of whether VR has a place at IA: The question becomes, “How far can we take it?”

Guy Messick, AIA

Director of Design Intelligence

IA Director of Design Intelligence Guy Messick has over 30 years of experience as an architect, technologist, and thought leader. Focused on understanding the connections between design and emerging technologies, he guides IA’s adoption and use of innovative technologies across the firm and with clients. Also trained in the arts, design, and fine woodworking, Guy finds architecture the discipline that best unites his many interests and talents. Contact him at [email protected]

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