The Different Types of Architectural Visualization

Architectural visualization encompasses various techniques and tools to represent architectural projects visually. It’s an essential part of a project and allows you to convey the vision for a project, identify issues before you break ground, and support planning permission requests. Over the last few years, many new forms of architectural visualization have been developed. This guide will explain the different types and key benefits of each.

Sketches and Hand Drawings

Before visualization went digital, architects relied heavily on hand drawings. While this form of visualization is becoming less popular due to the fact that digital products now produce more detailed drawings in less time, most architects admit that even their digital drawings started with a scribble on a piece of paper. While it’s unlikely that a customer would request hand-drawn blueprints, they are still a fundamental part of the beginning of a project as they allow an architect to brainstorm and play around with different concepts before firming up the designs using different visualization methods.

2D Drawings

Unlike hand-drawn sketches, 2D drawings are still an active part of architectural projects. Most people require a set of 2D drawings before the project planning begins and/or in the early stages when they’re confirming the concept.

Typically, these drawings provide detailed information about a building’s dimensions, layout, and structure. Every project will have some 2D drawings because they are essential for construction documentation and project coordination. 

While many factors impact the cost of 2D drawings, typically, the costs start at £100 – £150 per hour.

3D Drawings

3D software such as AutoCAD, SketchUp, and Revit revolutionized architectural visualization by allowing people to create quality photorealistic renderings that bring project concepts to life. Because 3D software allows you to manipulate elements such as sunlight, you can help showcase project features such as large windows or the brightness of a room during specific hours. This helps attract investors or buyers early on in a project, which is one of the reasons they are an increasingly popular method of architectural visualization.

The cost of 3D drawings starts at around £70 but depends on the complexity, size, and detail required.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality overlays digital visualizations onto the physical world. This allows clients to see how a proposed building or project fits into its environment. It helps with planning, decision-making, and even attracting investors and buyers. Typically, augmented reality can be categorized by exterior or interior imagery.

Exterior augmented reality allows you to superimpose buildings onto their surroundings, allowing stakeholders to get a feel for the project vision. It’s also a great marketing tool for showcasing a project’s impact. For example, if you’re about to build a skyscraper in London, you can show how it will impact the skyline.

Interior augmented reality allows you to show a property’s potential without the need for a showhome or expensive staging. It also allows you to produce multiple versions of the interior and use these to cater to different target audiences. For instance, a family may be sold by a space’s functionality, but a bachelor might be sold by the open-plan layout that makes it great for social events.

Because Augmented Reality needs to create something out of nothing, it’s a relatively expensive method of architectural visualization with costs starting from £1,000. 

Flythrough Animations

Flythrough animations are camera pathways that take the viewer around an architectural project to demonstrate its layout and design. Typically, the animation starts at the exterior of a building and then flies through a specific part of the building. To provide more insight into the interior spaces, animations are broken into several shorter videos rather than one long-form piece.

Because of their engaging format, flythrough animations are frequently used as marketing collateral and help attract investors or buyers before the property is ready for market.

The cost for fly-through animations starts at around £500.

3D Virtual Tours

360 virtual tours are a simulation of an existing location using 360-degree cameras. Typically, the tour starts at the front door, and the viewer can click through in multiple directions to move the tour around a property. While 3D virtual tours have been increasing in popularity over the last few years, they exploded during COVID-19 when the demand for properties was at an all-time high, and waiting to view a property in person would have likely resulted in a missed opportunity.

3D virtual tours are an excellent way for prospective buyers to explore a property quickly and help them shortlist their desired properties in no time. They gained such popularity that some large estate agents offer them as part of their listing packages.

If you do have to pay for a 3D tour, prices start from £100 but will vary based on the number of viewpoints and type of business you choose to go for (larger agencies may charge more).

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VR) is one of the latest methods of architectural visualization, offering the closest possible experience to walking around the finished project. By wearing VR headsets, stakeholders and/or clients can walk through and experience the project as if they were there. VR can effectively convey scale, lighting, and spatial relationships, enhancing the overall understanding and engagement with a project. A good property VR should be practically indistinguishable from the real property. 

Virtual reality is a great marketing tool for quicker sales, mainly because they can visualize the space before the property is ready for in-person viewings. It also allows people to view the property without traveling, significantly expanding the prospect pool.

That being said, because of the expensive set-up and software costs, Virtual Reality hasn’t penetrated the broader market (just yet) and tends to be seen mainly at luxury properties.

The cost for the headsets starts at £200, and depending on whether you’re offering VR as part of an open house or stage home experience, you’ll likely need a minimum of 3-4. Then, you need to pay for the VR to be built, with costs starting at £500 depending on the size and complexity of a project.