Case study: How Westwood PS is using VR for increasing client engagement
Westwood Professional Services (Westwood) is a leading multi-disciplined, AEC firm providing professional services to support national wind energy, solar energy, electric transmission, private development, and public infrastructure projects. Westwood was established in 1972 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through a focus on its people, culture, and clients, Westwood currently serves customers across the U.S. from multiple office locations.
We talked to Mitch Kroll, Architectural Drafter at Westwood, to learn how his team is using SENTIO Virtual Reality (VR) over the past few months.
How did you initiate the idea of using VR?
“I have played with old VR systems in the past, especially tethered headsets. With a personal Oculus Quest headset, I looked for options that were compatible with Revit and found SENTIO VR. As more companies use VR, I was looking for something that would give Westwood a competitive advantage, and I tested SENTIO VR. It was easy to sell my team on the idea once they experienced it. The biggest change with VR now is that it is mobile. You can bring it anywhere - home, office, or job site.”
What makes a VR experience different from an Architect's perspective?
“I think in 3D, so to be able to create and then virtually experience a design in 3D view makes a huge difference during the design process. For people who aren’t involved in architecture or construction, it can be hard to comprehend a 2D floorplan or even a 3D model on a computer screen. The VR experience is very different. It puts you inside of an accurately scaled 3D virtual environment, just like it would be if the space were constructed. With VR, clients get to experience the design before its built, which can be reassuring for them. The real-world environment also helps us identify areas that may not work well, so in the end, we deliver better designs.”
How do clients respond to VR?
“Most clients love VR, and they understand the value of it. We have created an open space in the office to walk around and inside the 3D model using an Oculus Quest. Some people may have an initial fear, but once they get past that, it’s quite an experience.”
Can you share a real-world example of using VR in a project?
“On one of our airport projects, the client wanted to see how far the planes were going to be from the building. I showed them the 3D model using an Oculus Quest 2 and they got a real-world feeling of the distance without having to bring them into our office and or set up a separate meeting. The mobility of using an Oculus Quest is a timesaver.”
Talk to us a little about setting up VR for your presentations
“Once the model is loaded in the Oculus Quest 2, we can give it to our client to walk through on their own. As they are “walking through” the virtual model, we can display their VR view on the TV for everyone else to see and participate. I can explain the details while the whole team experiences the space.”
What’s your take on VR headsets available today?
“Oculus Quest 2 is a lower-priced headset, which is helpful. Without any major issues, we were able to buy the headset and try the software with a smaller budget. Westwood will consider getting more headsets and expanding implementation across multiple projects and offices as our processes improve and the demand for VR increases.”
What’s your design workflow and how does VR fit into it?
“Westwood’s design team and clients review Revit 3D walkthroughs in VR. The Revit VR walkthrough helps us explore the building and move within it. We also create photorealistic 360-degree panoramas using Lumion and upload them to SENTIO VR to help provide a more realistic understanding of the space.”
Why did you choose SENTIO VR?
“SENTIO VR is optimized for the Oculus Quest, and we can provide the virtual reality experience without the need for a high-end workstation and the restraints of a tethered headset. This allows Westwood to bring virtual reality to our clients anywhere. SENTIO VR is a cloud-based software and extremely easy to use.”
A big thank you to Mitch and the Westwood team for sharing their SENTIO VR experience with us. If you are interested in sharing a VR story with us, please get in touch.