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How game engines are defining the future of architectural design


Written by Quentin Staes-Polet

History is replete with examples of buildings and entire cities being reimagined and redesigned to align with the shifts in societal norms. Consider London’s reconfigured architecture in the wake of the 1854 Cholera epidemic or Hausmann’s renovation of Paris in the 1800s, which has led to the distinctive appearance that the city sports today. Similarly, amid the disruption caused by the current pandemic, there is a growing re-evaluation of how buildings are conceived and what it might mean to design for a safer future.

Emerging technologies have the potential to change the face of the industry they are deployed in. Take architecture as an example. While architectural innovation is transforming the design perspective, the way buildings are visualised and constructed is also undergoing a paradigm shift. Real-time game engines, like Unreal Engine, are being used to conceive and experience buildings and landscapes virtually, long before the ground has been broken.

Imagine taking a virtual stroll through a fully designed space, making at-will changes to the intricate elements, and even assessing the underlying structure without leaving behind a mark. This might sound futuristic, but with gaming technology, such innovations are not only possible, they’re here now.

Building on innovation

The gap between the real and virtual world is now closer than ever, and it has become all the more important to find collaborative solutions to bring architectural designs to life. Building Information Model (BIM) software, which is predicted to reach $11.54 billion by 2022, generates a 3D simulation of a building offering design and construction professionals an efficient planning and management tool. Merging BIM software with gaming technology will not only push the boundaries of visualisation but change the way industry experts do business with their customers.

The marriage of the two technologies introduces a unique factor in site and project planning. Real-time engines utilise BIM data efficiently, and much like the video games that they power, provide greater flexibility to construction companies to tell richer, more interactive stories. While customers can fully experience what a project will look like, real-time also streamlines the creative process for architects and design professionals, who can get an in-depth understanding of the space without multiple site visits, unlocking the creative process at a much earlier stage.

Taking visualisation to the next level

The benefits of bringing architectural data into a real-time environment are multifold. Real-time engines can easily render the most minute details of the data model, and rather than individually reviewing each 3D file, stakeholders can virtually experience a hypothetical space down to the smallest detail. By walking through the entire design plan, and examining each nuance they can make key decisions much earlier in the project cycle.

Beyond interactivity, a real-time workflow can lead to improved collaboration. Traditionally, design plans are shared with clients through multiple PDF documents and slide deck presentations. Faced with heaps of information, the finer details of the plans often get lost, complicating communication and hindering progress. Game engines offer clients the ability to view designs in an immersive environment, leading to a deeper and more immediate understanding. Additionally, each data set can be explored individually by assessing all the elements in the game engine, reducing errors in the design plans.

The stunning visualisation that real-time technology offers helps clients understand design concepts much better than a flat blueprint, or a static render. Moreover, game engines allow users to select the specific materials and make specific changes in real-time, allowing potential customers the opportunity to experience what it could feel like to “live” in a building before they set foot in the door.

From automotive to media and entertainment, and beyond—professionals across industries are utilising game engines for the freedom and control that they provide to create cutting-edge content and truly immersive worlds. Numerous game engines are free to download with easy-to-use documentation and tutorials available online. Millions of users all over the planet are fulfilling their creative vision with game engines and driving real-time technology to become mainstream.

The way ahead

As the industry embraces the new normal, game engines will not only play an instrumental role in transforming architectural design but will also reimagine the complete project cycle. With an era of innovation on the horizon, it will be exciting to see what the future has in store for both worlds.

Quentin Staes-Polet is the GM India and SEA-Epic Games



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