Here at Studio Design Group Architects, we are constantly educating ourselves on the latest technology invigorating the realm of healthcare design. Every year there is a new advancement—whether it is a construction program that allows for more spot-on project time and cost estimates, or drones that can survey a building site in thirty minutes, one break through seems to come right after the other. Although virtual reality has been around for decades, new applications have begun to dramatically shape the field of healthcare design here in San Luis Obispo, and everywhere.
Virtual reality healthcare design technology allows architects to create a digital rendering of a space that can be viewed panoramically on any device, even an iPad. Architects are able to include precise details of a design, even down to the texture and color of a chair and tile pattern of a floor. Viewers can virtually “walk through” the hospital, and see the project come to life, even before a foundation is laid. Designers can even display the amount of sunlight that will hit a space at various times of the day and year!
So why is this useful? There are seemingly limitless benefits to virtual reality, beginning with the confidence that client expectations will be met. Rather than creating the first floor of a building only to figure out that the owner doesn’t like the layout, instead she can walk through it via virtual reality technology. Needless to say, it is much easier to figure out that the hallways aren’t large enough to accommodate patient transfers in virtual reality than it is after the walls have been built onsite.
Virtual reality allows for a more flexible design route. Rather than having to go through the lengthy process of physically redrawing a space over and over, architects on a total whim can adjust the rendering of a space. For example, if an architect is showing the client a virtual panorama of the waiting room, and the client then wants to see the space with more plant life and longer tables, the architect can create these new iterations on the spot.
So why is this useful? Architects can easily provide doctors and nurses with a virtual experience of the design, and in return receive critiques to optimize the efficiency of the space. For example, nurses may prefer their aid station to be in a particular area, and doctor’s may prefer the waste disposal in a position near the exit of a room. By being able to see a 3D representation of the space, architects in San Luis Obispo and worldwide are savings countless hours in renovations.
Virtual reality software also enhances universal design principles, which are grounded in the philosophy that spaces should be accessible to all people regardless of age, disability, or other factors. Architects are able to adjust the view settings of their healthcare design virtual software so that it can be from a child’s height, or from the view of someone with a disability.