Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Sharp Point of Proactive Design

Lots of good research comes from the real estate sector because they tend to be very sophisticated users of design services. This week's article on proactive design caught my attention because I’ve long held the value of a building is primarily established in the design phase. Being proactive about the structural system is central to this. 
In the end, however, I think the article missed key opportunities to provide evidence of why it's important for clients to engage the services of a structural engineer as early in a project as possible. Take for instance the authors' statement: 
“If the correct structural system is selected early on when concepts are still fluid, it forms the right bones for all that follows and inherently reduces costs due to its appropriateness and efficiency.” 
What makes it "inherent"? If I'm a critical thinker, I should ask myself if there aren't empirical ways to investigate this question. And what the authors gloss over as inherent I think actually represents a testable process which is predictable enough to save clients money. My hypothesis is that numbers exist which point to very specific reasons why the building design process is optimized when structure is addressed early. I actually just found the numbers in books at the University of Calgary library and on the internet. Had I written the article - the main thrust of which I agree with - I wouldn't have used the word "inherent" but rather more words instead. Ha!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gamification of 3D Architectural Renderings

At first blush I probably don’t seem a likely candidate to support of the gamification of computer generated architectural renderings: I don’t own a TV nor play video games. I dislike the majority of computer generated architectural renderings, tending instead to prefer super high-quality photo-realistic renderings, a technical process I admire but have never found the motivation to learn. 

The Unreal Engine is probably best known as a first person shooter video game against science fiction monsters. I suppose one could populate their architectural model with monsters and aliens and invite the well-armed player to visit the structure but it might not give one’s architectural proposal the light-hearted energy normally associated with professional presentations. Minecraft architecture is more my speed but so few of my ideas translate smoothly into 1m x 1m x 1m blocks. Archdaily had an interesting article last year highlighting the steep learning curve involved in Unreal Engine renderings accompanied by some quality examples of the technology (as per the linked video).

The open source Unreal Engine 4 appears to be the industry leader in open-world architectural models and the website shows how mature the segment has become. The workflow appears to be somewhat straightforward for those already holding a passion for the field. There are many excellent examples floating around the internet and I find them all very compelling. The only thing I would find more compelling is letting the client themselves wonder around the model. Then this becomes an exciting and engrossing presentation of the proposed space which communicates many of the structure’s key qualities. The open-world nature of these models lends the activity a sense of transparency and fun because stakeholders can wander around wherever they like and satisfy their curiosity. 

Lastly we turn to Engineering News Record’s article about how video games became design and construction tools who insisted on calling augmented reality “Mixed reality” throughout the article. The author even goes on to say ““Mixed reality”—another term for augmented reality (AR)—allows users to map images onto objects in their field of vision while wearing [specialized goggles or glasses].” This technology becomes helpful in construction because it offers a method by which to overlay the architectural model on the construction site. Especially for the mechanical contractors of a project - who often need to follow what must seem like random paths through a building with very specific pipes or wires - such a straightforward way of connecting the building system design to the real-world site becomes valuable.