What is Architectural Visualization?

Merging computer generated imagery with real world photography is one of many techniques visual artists use in architectural visualization.

Merging computer generated imagery with real world photography is one of many techniques visual artists use in architectural visualization.

Building design and construction is an expensive process. Any change to layout or materials when construction is underway means extra cha-ching, so the industry wants clients to have an accurate vision of a home or building before the first shovel hits the ground. 

Architectural visualization, or Arch Viz, is a broad term that describes “seeing” architectural designs before they are built. It encompasses everything from basic sketches to more sophisticated 3D renderings and interactive virtual tours. 

Builders, architects, real estate agents and interior designers use architectural visualization to sell their products and services. Images are better than words at securing sales, and they give the client a clearer representation of what they’re buying.  

2D Vs. 3D Architectural Visualization

Interactive 360˚ panoramas allow you view a space from every angle as if you were standing there.

Basic sketches and flat floor plans used to be the most common way for architects and builders to describe, market and sell their homes and buildings, and they still have a place in the industry. But 2D drawings and plans don’t always translate to buyers. It can be difficult to grasp how one room flows into another or what the building looks in the context of its surroundings. 

Advancements in technology and computer graphics have shifted the momentum toward 3D architectural visualization, which includes:

  • 3D renderings, or computer-generated still images, that offer a photo-quality view of the home, building or development. Images can be used to show a building’s exterior, along with landscaping and nearby buildings, or the interior. Often, these high-definition images are almost indistinguishable from real photographs. 
  • 3D Virtual Tours that offer a 360-degree view of the project and its surroundings. Created with high-tech simulation software, these take clients around and inside the building. Virtual tours allow users to swap out certain design features - crown molding or siding, for example - to play with the look. Clients can find out how their home or building looks compared to others around it. 

3D architectural visualization benefits architects, builders and clients. Design changes are easier and less expensive for the architect than with hand drawings. Builders can avoid expensive mid-project changes. And clients get a realistic image of the final product, allowing them to understand and move forward with the project. 

Villages Features, LLC offers 3D renderings, panoramas, walkthroughs, and virtual video tours created from the same type of simulation software used by the military. Clients use the visualization products in marketing materials, brochures and on billboards. They’re used on websites and social media platforms, and they’re mobile friendly. 

A Growing Industry

Globally, the 3D architectural visualization industry is expected to grow 35.6 percent from 2011 to 2015. That’s according to a 2012 report by TechNavio, a London-based technology market research firm. 

Most of that increase will be driven by the need to improve marketing campaigns, according to the report. Construction companies and real estate developers are increasingly using 3D designs of buildings to promote their products. They’re finding that customers prefer to see a 3D architectural visualization of a building or development to understand the interior, exterior, amenities and landscaping, the report said. 

A separate report, the CGarchitect 2009 Industry Survey, showed that 85 percent of commercial projects and 79 percent of residential projects were using architectural visualization at the time. The results showed a 12 percent increase in the number of people using visualization on a daily basis, compared to three years prior, despite the onset of the recession and its impact on the construction industry. A follow-up survey with updated data is in the works, but it has yet to be released.