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Virtual Reality Tech Adding New Dimensions in CRE

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – It’s a saying which is all the more true in real estate.

Well-done photography is one of the most effective ways of marketing a property,  regardless of the building, its location, or many other factors. But photography is nothing new. And with new developments, it can be difficult for tenants to make the leap and imagine what a property or space might look like for their company.

That’s where new virtual reality technologies can help bridge the gap, allowing landlords and brokers to take the concept of artist’s renderings to the next level.

Just as virtual reality technologies have exploded in the consumer market, they are also beginning to make a major impact in commercial real estate.

“When looking at new space, the VR technology is so much better than 2D renderings,” says Duncan Gratton, an Executive Managing Director at Cushman & Wakefield. “You can bring a potential tenant into a lobby which isn’t even built yet, and let them see exactly what will be going in around them.”

One recent project making continued use of VR technology is the LINX development in Watertown – where Gratton is the leasing agent – which involves the transformation of a former Verizon warehouse on Arsenal Street into a 185,000 SF creative office building.

Knowing that potential tenants may not be able to fully envision the end result, the property owners and leasing team worked together with the architecture and interior design firm, SGA, to better show the future space.

interior_rendering_1

You can see some of the LINX renderings here (visible either on a computer, or in 3D on a mobile device using Google Cardboard or other VR headset via the Yulio app).

“The building is under construction now, so sometimes it’s tough for a tenant to understand their space,” says Kristen O’Gorman, an SGA Architect who is part of the LINX project. “At one point in the project, there weren’t floors, there weren’t stairs. It wasn’t like bringing in a tenant for an interior fit-out, where they can see the core and the shell. It was a construction site. VR really helped people envision what the space size and volume would be.”

The ease of sharing VR renderings makes it incredibly easy for tenants to discuss a project with decision makers located elsewhere, says O’Gorman.

The models are also customizable, so with a few small changes, brokers can add a potential tenant’s logo and branding on the walls and doors of the virtual reality world. That changes it from just looking at generic space, as Gratton says, to looking at what could be their space.

“There is something very powerful about experiencing your brand in VR,” says Michael Schroeder, SGA’s Director of Building Information Modeling and Virtual Design and Construction Services.

VR technologies can also be helpful in the tenant build-out process, allowing architects to show the impact of various finishes on the overall look and design of a space, which helps tenants and contractors work more efficiently.lobby_rendering

“We have used VR in the field to help the trades and subcontractors, to better understand the space they are building. Their reactions are usually like ‘so that is what this space will look like’, or ‘now I get it’, and the impression of the VR experience is positive and lasting,” says Schroeder. “There are simply so many potential use cases starting from site investigation, through design, construction and marketing.”

Virtual reality is only getting larger and larger, with Schroeder noting an “explosion” of niche companies are now working with in the real estate industry. As time goes on, companies will launch new and better displays, which will expand the boundaries of augmented reality and virtual reality even further.

“Commercial real estate is well behind the high-end residential market in this type of thing,” says Gratton. “We have some catching up to do.”

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