By Meghan Hall
Providence, RI-based Gilbane Building Company is one of several real estate and construction companies looking for ways to integrate technology in its daily work. For Gilbane, the next level of technical integration involves using gaming technology to help clients envision their new spaces and show them a realistic representation of the finished product. This allows the clients to immerse themselves in the setting and experience the proposed plans before the development is even built.
Gilbane began growing and developing its media department in 2007 when the company realized that outsourcing visualization elements for presentations was much more time consuming and expensive than producing communication pieces in house. According to Lucas Richmond, the senior manager for the Gilbane Media Studio, developing its multimedia department not only made sense from a business perspective, but it was also necessary for the advancement of the industry.
“Gilbane wanted to be on the forefront of this effort and realized that by hiring right-brain function employees, it was easier for them to process limited information in very short timeframes and turn it into a beautiful visual communication piece for our clients,” explained Richmond.
Over the course of nearly 11 years, Gilbane has perfected its gaming workflow as technology and processing power has progressed. While many companies do use virtual reality mock-ups to help their clients visualize their plans, very few, if any, companies use gaming engines to help clients experience the physical space.
To complete its gaming mock-ups, Gilbane uses Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Revit for 3D scaling and modeling, and Autodesk Maya, which is a movie and video game software. Gilbane will sometimes utilize Epics Unreal Gaming Engine or Unity Gaming Engine for other additional details. Both programs aid Richmond’s team in automating and streamlining the client’s preferred design in order to help explore development possibilities and help clients make an informed decision.
It was in 2015 that the Gilbane Media Studio first produced a VR presentation in which the client could “walk through” their space on a 1:1 scale. Richmond said Gilbane immediately realized the importance of such a breakthrough; the client was able to visually communicate with Gilbane in order point out potential design flaws prior to construction.
“We knew this would be huge,” explained Richmond. “Not only did we win the project, but we saved the client money before their design was finished, so there wouldn’t be any regrets with design or changes down the road.”
Richmond credits the technology with saving clients time and money. While renderings and animations can take up to several weeks to produce, gaming models can be created and edited in a few hours. “The traditional rendering and animation workflows were very slow and unforgiving,” said Richmond. “With the quality and power of gaming engines and real-time lighting and baking, we are able to render those same animations out in a couple of hours compared to days.”
Gilbane’s gaming mock-ups have quickly grown in popularity. In 2015 Gilbane created 14 VR mock-ups, while in 2016 they created 67 and in 2017 they created 106 such presentations. Richmond says that so far, Gilbane has not found any true limits to their VR mock-ups and only imagines that the possibilities will continue to improve along with technology.
“The only thing that limits this technology and what can be created, is your imagination,” said Richmond.