I like to share some background information, pictures and YouTube videos of a few of my projects as an architect.
I’m using SketchUp, UnrealEngine and VR daily. From the design phase up into the working drawings phase. The SketchUp 3d model to me is the digital prototype where all relevant and important elements will be added in 3d. By also adding construction elements, pipes and the details in 3d, all problems are solved ‘on the drawing board’ and not on the construction site.
Using Unreal Engine and VR is critical part of my process. In Unreal, more realistic materials are added and lighting calculated. Using VR, the design will reveal its strong points and weaknesses already in the early phases of the design. Again, better to solve the latter on the drawing board.
Clients really love this process. The combination of 3d (SketchUp), 2d (LayOut), VR and YouTube videos of VR walkthroughs really helps them making choices. Some clients even buy a VR headset themselves and updates to the design are shared online. Makes communicating changes even more simple and less traveling is needed.
I really love hearing from other architects using a similar workflow.
Below a project that was build a few years ago in the middle of the Netherlands. Long piles were needed because of the poor ground conditions.
How long does it take you to go from scratch to a finished product like this?
That’s a very tough question.
In this case, many alternatives were drawn and evaluated in 3d. The complete project took two years from earliest design to working drawings and permits.
If the design was already totally finished all up to the details, 3d modelling and creating the UnrealEngine project might take a week or so - it all depends on the required level of detail, realism, surroundings etc.
The next project was a big renovation. No good nor complete 2d drawings of the villa were available so I requested a pointcloud to be made. See the video.
Video with Subtitles in Dutch
Another renovation. Added the interior and a day-night scenario in Unreal Engine.
Another project; a house for a young family on the edge of a very small town. They requested a small / compact home (160m2) in a contemporary style. Again on piles due to the poor ground conditions.
In purple and light blue color, some pipes / ventilation ducts.In dark blue, some steel elements. In grey a 3d roof tile pattern to make sure the contractor can install them with no unnecessary gaps / cuts.
For the contractor I made a VR walkthrough to get an idea of the house. Nothing fancy - just to get an idea of the place and construction. See here
Next, an office remodeling. An industrial hall was transformed to an office for a young ict service firm. The brief demanded an open space combined with closed offices and meeting rooms. I opted to create a contrast between the new smooth high tech equipment and the more raw original construction elements.
It was the first project I did in VR - 2016 - using an Oculus Rift and GTX 1080. Taking a flight case to the clients with the Rift, sensors, egpu and powerful laptop. Had to use very low poly furniture to guarantee a smooth VR performance.
See an original VR walk through video combined with panoramic photos here.
Next a a design for a house at a woodland edge. A family home with a spacious garden (by Dutch standards).
Small technical detail: in UnrealEngine the (still fairly new) Lumen real-time lighting solution was used. So while working in Unreal Engine - all is WYSIWYG. Add/move/change a light or material of any object or move an object and its effect on the lighting is updated in real time. This makes working in Unreal even more effective. The foliage is mostly from Quixel (free with UnrealEngine).
Here s short video using Lumen in VR - an afternoon scene. The camera is a bit shaky because at the moment, dampening the spectator view (which I’m grabbing as a video) isn’t possible (yet) when using Lumen. While in VR you don’t experience the shaky-ness but for viewers its obvious.
Very nice indeed. Couple /few questions if you don’t mind…
What are you running (GPU hardware) the experience on?
From your experience, what is the perf hit using Lumen as opposed to baked lighting. I realise the significant gain in workflow fluidity having fully dynamic lighting & GI, just wondered what the VR hit is?
Are you using a straight Datasmith export of your design model into UE? or optimising the model for VR in SU first.
Given question 3, how do you manage design iteration in the UE project? is it just a case up updating the Datasmith file?
My reasons for asking is that I currently do all my VR walkthroughs using VR Sketch as its super simple to prototype designs and spaces and send to the client early on. Further down the line I do everything in Twinmotion (stills and panoramas etc) but not VR as Twinmotion VR ‘capabilities’ are exceptionally limited to say the least! or, at best you have to severely optimise for TM to run it anywhere near acceptably but as the projects are usually set up for high res renders using high poly assets etc, I was looking at TM as a half-way house but then sending the project to UE for more immersive VR walkthroughs benefitting from Lumen etc.
Im a one man band, so just interested in your workflow.
I’m using a 4090 now but it worked also fine on a 3080 that I used before. Just lower the visual quality settings a bit if needed (high instead of epic) and maybe use VR optimized foliage and furniture.
The performance hit using Lumen is big (thus my upgrade to a 4090 for larger projects and my desire not to spend time optimizing projects) - about 30% to 50% or less fps when using Lumen - it all depends on the complexity / detail of the project and number of shadow casting lights.I expect/hope this will improve - Lumen is still new. For maximum comfort in VR for my clients, I use pre-calculated lighting but during design its all Lumen now.
While modelling I already optimize the model for VR and Lumen. Its part of my workflow after using Rift, GO and Quest the last couple of years. The optimization mainly consists of splitting up larger chunks into smaller logical ones so UE can quickly work through the 3d model (so split up the facades, individual floors, etc per logical element in SU). Most of the time, its not the 3d SU model thats causing any performance issues but the added high quality stuff in UE like foliage, furniture and glass with nice reflections.
I use a custom ruby script to export to UE using fbx. This results in the most optimal project in UE with the exact same hierarchy in the outliner as in SU. But, you can also use Datasmith as its very user friendly and fast. Datamsith does add a few extra nodes in the hierarchy so I still prefer my own script.
Design iteration is simple: export like you did the the first time and re-import into UE. Objects that were added/changed/removed in SU will be added/changed/removed in UE as well when using Datasmith.With fbx, you have to add & remove manually.
I have no idea if Unreal is more fast in VR compared to Twinmotion. I do expect Unreal to have more tools to help in maintaining higher framerate. For instance, to optimize LODs, use HLODs (instances), invisible volumes that show/hide objects etc.
I’m also a one man band - total liberty to create my own workflow and way of doing projects is really wonderful.
Twinmotion is just a more user friendly interface to deal with Unreal’s engine.
One can take the project into Unreal and keep all the things setup in Twinmotion and go further.
Speed should be the same.
Thanks for your reply Max. Useful to hear about your methods.
I don’t mind the manual add / remove, thats how I use TM currently, I prefer to keep track of my additions/ amendments & removals with .fbx or .skp assets rather than use Datasmith or direct link, had problems historically with Direct Link.
Unfortunately ‘speed’ isn’t the same in VR TM → UE. The current implementation of VR in TM is clunky and unoptimisable apart from the standard TM detail levels, no configurable LODS etc. Also 5.1 up has had a fair bit of VR improvement and features i.e Lumen & Nanite available in VR, which 5.01 (which is what TM is currently running on under the hood) does not provide. Even my crude not really sure what I’m doing™ tests showed better (i.e. actually useable ish) on an unoptimised project straight from TM to UE. It’s just getting a practical workflow sorted that I can integrate with my existing custom pipeline.
Also, just a slightly OT comment. Working in & using VR to prototype / visualise your designs is an absolute joy. Both for the designer and for clients / customers, the gasps of wonder (really!) from clients when they first get to go into and understand their own spatial context in a design is fantastic to see. Particularly for people that don’t always spatially ‘get’ a 2D drawing or even a render or 360 Panorama.
Even though I would like to attain @maxB standards of visuals, SketchUp level models in 6dof VR are also fantastic, just being ‘in it’ makes a world of difference.
I totally agree with the added value of using VR. Some clients really have trouble understanding spaces when only using 2d of even a 3d model in SketchUp. Multiple times VR was the turning point in really understanding the design and being able to make a well informed decision for a design option.
I’m going to throw out a suggestion for Enscape for anyone looking for similar capabilities that work within the SketchUp environment. It’s very easy to learn, works parallel to your SketchUp model, within SketchUp. All changes are synced live as you work and the end results are definitely worth the time investment.
The animations are easy to export and at 1080p they export 1:1 depending on you graphics card. For example a 30 second clip at 1080p @ 30 frames per second takes 30 seconds to a minute to export.
In addition, you can export a web-stand alone version that can be opened in any web browser (not mobile) to share with clients.
Here’s an example animation from one of my projects:
Its been a while. I like to share a first concept of a vacation home using the Wikihouse building blocks. Its an interesting system where the house could be build by the owners themselves for the most part.
Modeled in SketchUp (first pic), exported to Unreal Engine to enhance & evaluate in VR and for fun, a screengrab from Unreal was used to generate some alternative ideas using StableDiffusion (last pic).
This is looking fantastic!
I like to add another project. It was a beautiful challenge. Five years ago I already did the remodelling of this 1950-ies villa that was in very bad condition at that time. A few years later, the clients asked for an underground addition with a large lounge area and an exterior swimming pool. The new addition at the same time creates a large terrace near the living room and the kitchen. If all goes to plan, construction will start in a few months.
As always, Unreal Engine and VR was very helpful for the clients to get an idea of the spaces and make informed choices.
These are so good I thought I must have created them, but couldn’t remember when.