Virtual reality paves a new frontier for architecture
Published: February 1, 2018

Juliet Huang | Interviews | 01 February, 2018

    Virtual reality, or VR for short, is a computer generated experience that allows users to immerse themselves fully in the virtual environment. Scenarios are built to replicate real-life conditions, enabling users to feel like they are experiencing a different world, without even leaving the comfort of their seats. Want a roller-coaster experience? Just strap on a headset, switch on your VR device and go on a thrill ride while seated in your favourite armchair. Such technology has gained much popularity in the gaming industry, and is slowly making its way to mobile technology, quickly gaining fans amongst consumers. With the ability to see and walk-through the place as if you were in it, the technology allows even the most unimaginative person the luxury of seeing every detail rendered, without having to guess at the final product.

    It’s no wonder that VR technology then, is also becoming a favourite of innovative architects in the world. Computer-rendered 2-dimensional drafts strains a user’s capacity to recreate the finished product in his mind, and the final outcome may not allow the client and the architect to part ways amicably. VR allows one to see details rendered in full colour, in 3 dimensional form, and to ‘feel’ the structural depth and breadth of the building. One such company that has used VR successfully in their architectural projects is ID Architects. They have won numerous awards including the Building and Construction Authority(BCA) Building Information Modelling(BIM) Gold Award in 2017 for their impressive use of VR in working with clients during the design stage, construction stage, and facility management stage.

    In this feature article, we interview Mr Jin Sung, Executive Director of ID Architects, to find out how VR will transform the way companies manage projects and pioneer the next frontier of architectural design.


    Mr Jin Sung, Executive Director of ID Architects. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.

    Mr Jin Sung, Executive Director of ID Architects. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.


    Q. As one of the top architect firms in Singapore, how does IDA hope to inspire and impact the architectural scene in Singapore?

    IDA is always motivated to inspire architectural scene in Singapore and the wider building industry. Our idea is about transforming our professions through technology, making best use of it to help optimise our objectives. We are redefining our form of working with new tools and new workflow. To date, we have adopted both hardware and software application, such as parametric design, 3D drone scanning, and of course the VR technology.


    VR Studio at ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.

    VR Studio at ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.


    Q. What benefits and disadvantages do VR technology have for the architectural industry?

    VR technology has made a giant step forward in term of design communication among the clients, architects, engineers, and contractors through different project stages. In the immersive environment, every individual could understand BIM object visually and systematically far better. With the right data since day one, many crucial decisions can be made correctly and coherently. VR technology has provided a collaborative environment for architects to work in a group instead of isolation.

    Apart from that, VR technology is a gateway for BIM to the world. It provides laymen to virtual world and gives opportunities to professionals who are already familiar with BIM to do a better job. Building professionals would be constructing buildings together virtually and stimulating its construction sequencing etc.

    There would be a transition phase in the changing process which can be challenging. During this infancy stage to utilise or master the technology, certain investment of time and resources is inevitable, this is to ensure a full adoption by various stakeholders within an organisation. Another challenge is the VR technology itself is developing fast and rapidly, hence, it is a not easy to keep up with it all the time.


    Q. How has VR technology helped with conceptualizing IDA’ local projects, for example, the more recent ones such as JTC Furniture Hub, Kallang Riverside?

    JTC Furniture Hub and Kallang Riverside are actually the earliest projects with VR technology application. We are now applying VR technology in more projects. VR technology helps the clients to visualise the building detailedly and allows them to develop more ideas. It also minimized errors and save on project cost. In a conceptual design of high-rise buildings, VR technology helps the client to experience the height of the building and has provided a better platform to communicate.


    VR Studio at ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.

    VR Studio at ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.


    Q. How do you foresee VR technology further being utilised in Singapore?

    VR technology could possibly be widely adopted as communication and collaboration tool in building industry, especially among the developers, consultants, contractors, and even the authorities to work together. We foresee VR technology is slowly gaining attention to be fully embraced in many sectors. Singapore is certainly embracing VR technology to transform its building industry sector in today’s digital world to drive the advance BIM, VDC and IDD to a greater height.


    ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.

    ID Architects Office. Image © ID Architects Pte Ltd.


    Q. What type of support will be needed from stakeholders in order to better implement this technology in Singapore? What can Singapore do better, or as well as other modern cities that have already embraced the integration of BIM and VR?

    VR technology would need support from all parties in building industry for further innovation and development. The connected BIM in the future that integrate with VR/AR Technology will be a very powerful and useful technology to develop, manage and operate the build environment. IDA will continue to research and develop along this area. We have a greater vision for building industry that imagining various stakeholders would implement VR Technology to their respective areas of applications. Such as, Developers would create VR’s virtual showrooms, Building’s operators would do up VR rooms for training, Contractor creates VR mock up room for material approval and etc. All in all, future is what to be focused on.


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