Although he doesn’t advertise it as such, Lochwood-Lozier is a design/build firm, and it also takes on projects designed by outside architects, building eight to 10 custom homes per year and doing about 15 to 20 remodels. Typical homes measure 5,500 to 6,000 square feet and cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $1.6 million, not including the land. The budget for a recent remodel was $3.4 million.
Clients purchasing custom builds at that level are discerning and sophisticated, particularly in the high-tech demographic that makes up Lozier’s market.
Along with personal attention and today’s typical basket of e-marketing tools—Houzz, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter—Lozier takes it a step further by using virtual reality to better connect his clients with their projects. “So many people have difficulty understanding 2D plans,” he says. “Even in SketchUp it’s not quite the same level of realism.”
Virtual reality (VR) offers a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment in which viewers can interact with their surroundings—not to be confused with augmented reality (AR), which adds digital elements to a live view.
While more and more architects have turned to VR to share projects with clients or collaborate on work, not many builders are using it. “I don’t know of any other design/build contractors doing this,” Lozier says. “It’s not a common thing—yet.”
Lochwood-Lozier teamed up with Seattle-based Radical Galaxy, which works with companies to create VR, AR, and mixed-reality material for their projects. It works this way: After Lozier’s (or the external) architects have designed a home and made the selections (floor, tile, wall color, hard surfaces, sometimes furniture) with their client’s input, they send Radical Galaxy 2D drawings as DWG files. These include floor plans, elevations, dimensions, measurements—“basically what would be in a 2D set of drawings,” Lozier says. In a process that takes about two to three weeks, Radical Galaxy inputs that information into its program and produces a VR file…
…Clients come to the office, put on a headset, and get to virtually walk through their home. Some opt for an exterior and interior look, and some just look at particular rooms. “They can check for potential problems,” Lozier says. For example, one client used the system to go through his kitchen. He realized the distance between the bar table and the kitchen island was too narrow. Lozier’s team was able to revise the drawing in CAD to make that space more comfortable. They sent the file back to Radical Galaxy and then had the client walk through again to sign off on it.
…VR walkthrough—ranges from $8,000 to $20,000. Most of that is for programming and the tremendous number of hours that go into production. But Lozier says the cost is not bad when you’re building a $5 million project and you have a hard time visualizing what’s on paper. “This is truly some of the best money you can spend on this level,” he says. “Think of the cost of a change order in the field; the cost of VR could be miniscule. I haven’t had a client tell me it wasn’t money well spent.”
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