When most people think of virtual reality, they imagine a cool gadget synonymous with video games and sci-fi movies. But as virtual reality technology improves and develops, more industries are finding creative ways to incorporate it into their business. Traditionally, real estate has had a slow pace of tech adoption, but the potential of VR is quickly being realized.
Suffolk Construction, the innovative building contractor, has opened a Smart Lab in its downtown Miami office to “identify, test and scale new technologies intended to transform the construction experience and revolutionize the industry.” Just last year, they opened similar labs in Boston, New York City, and San Francisco, which are physical manifestations of Suffolk’s ‘build smart’ approach that enables its teams to leverage new tools and technologies in order to create more value for their clients.
“The momentum from our ‘build smart’ approach is unmistakable as we redefine what it means to be a builder and, more importantly, provide significant value and a positive project experience for clients, architects and trade partners,” said Chris Mayer, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Suffolk.
One of these interactive technologies is a virtual reality CAVE (Computer Aided Virtual Environment) room, which immerses the user in a realistic 3D model of renderings using an HTC Vive headset. The concept allows teams to identify and address logistical challenges before construction begins by ‘stepping inside’ the building. “The basic concept behind the Smart Lab is that we can build it in pixels before we build it in brick and mortar,” said Joe Fernandez, vice president of operations for Suffolk Construction. “We take real-time decisions and put them in a 3D model so the client can immediately see the finished result.
Only six percent of construction companies currently implement VR technology, according to a survey by Software Connect, but its benefits have already been recognized. Fortune International Realty Group collaborated with Suffolk in building Jade Signature luxury condo tower in Sunny Isles Beach, whose futuristic structure was designed by prize-winning Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. CEO and president of Fortune, Edgardo Defortuna, said “We knew Jade Signature would be an extraordinary undertaking and that a collaboration with Suffolk would be a cornerstone of the project’s development.” During preconstruction in 2016, his sales team shipped virtual reality goggles to prospective Jade buyers. “The result has exceeded every expectation.”
For virtual reality to take off, it needs competitive pricing and increased computing power in order to run high-end VR simulations. These key variables are present, but the availability of headsets and computers makes distribution of the experience a challenge. As early enthusiasts give way to wider adoption and awareness, VR may become a key technology when it comes to the designing, building, buying and selling of real estate.
Article by Katya Demina