HOKO Design's CEO Explains How They Used VR To Grow Clients By 1000%
Hoko Design is one of the fastest-growing architecture firms in the world, working exclusively with homeowners who are extending or altering their homes. Referred to in the media as ‘The Uber of Architecture’, HOKO’s use of technology has allowed them to scale across the UK over the past 12 months, increasing their client base by over 1000%. We talked to Danny Campbell - co-founder & CEO of the company to learn how they have embraced VR to achieve this growth.
Tell us a little about yourself
After graduating as an Architect, I started my own practice with a focus on doing small projects. The driver behind starting my own practice was that spending time with clients was rewarding. We realized we could find an edge because of our special focus on clients. This led us to build a unique practice with a very strong technical team and a mission to provide our clients with an "experience of architecture" - not just a traditional process.
Why do you think the client experience is so important?
For a successful project, a lot of amazing people need to get involved and collaborate. However, it is the client that bears a lot of the risk. It is probably their biggest investment and they bear a lot of uncertainty. This insight led us to our mantra of building the "perfect client experience" ensuring the important values of great communication, transparency, integrity. Also, I believe it is important to create client experiences that are just exciting.
How did you get into VR?
I remember we were trying out SketchUp models in an iPad Pro long back for an AR experience. It is when I wondered what if I could actually feel inside the design. I searched online for viewing a 3D walkthrough in Oculus Go ( early VR days ) and found SENTIO VR. We bought the software immediately and it was the first time I ever saw our designs in VR. It fit perfectly into our vision of the "perfect client experience".
Can you tell us about your VR workflow?
We export our 3D models using the SENTIO VR plugin for Revit to the cloud & put on an Oculus Quest to review the design. This way, we do not lose any time in reviewing our designs and can take decisions much faster and better than reviewing flat drawings. By reviewing our designs in 3D, we were actually able to think about the space better. Since our models are already on the cloud, we meet our clients and provide them an immersive experience to review their designs on the Quest. The clients go from their current house to their future house using Virtual Reality. As they review their designs, we see on a screen the VR view using casting and take notes about the feedback shared by the clients.
When we have a meeting with clients, they go from their current house to their future house using VR. Architects have their iPads and we use screen mirroring to see what they are seeing and help navigate through the space. The architect is usually taking notes while clients in VR are pointing out their feedback
How does this change the client experience?
Most clients are not good at interpreting plans. They get a very limited understanding of the project as they get an impression of the space, height, and materials. VR gives them a view into the future. Remember that there are huge costs involved and the process of building is typically very expensive for clients. Understanding the designs in VR takes away the fear of the unknown for clients, builds excitement, and above all gives them a remembrance of the space which is absolutely crucial for the overall experience.
Does VR actually help the design team in any way?
Absolutely, by reviewing designs in VR - we are able to move through the space and feel the connection between the rooms. The engineers can understand the structural elements better. The interior designers can select furniture and create the desired client experience. Finally, VR makes the process more collaborative as different aspects and teams can come together and ensure that a well-integrated design is possible. From drawings and specifications, you do not always get an immediate understanding of the space - so being able to get quickly into VR allows for quick meetings and presentations that were not possible earlier.
Do you remember how VR started at Hoko Design?
Very early on I remember that I got a new iPad Pro and was using SketchUp and there was a way to do augmented reality. If AR can be that quick, how can this experience get immersive? We searched online and found SENTIO VR - downloaded the trial and bought the software. This was when Oculus Go - it was the first time we saw our designs in VR. We have never played games on a VR headset - it quickly became a design tool and a presentation tool. By uploading a file to Sentio and wearing a headset, you are in the design - so we lost no time and it allowed us to review the design in 3D - take decisions much quicker than flat drawings.
How do you see VR impacting the Architecture industry?
Architecture in general is a very old-fashioned industry. The way we are working upsets people who are established. But, it has such a positive impact on the client experience. It becomes a very exciting process. It will be very difficult for people who use older methods of producing drawings. It is the way forward. As it becomes more intuitive to use, it will open up a lot more people accessing the technology. People are happy to use the headset ( it's an exciting moment for them ).
What are the unique practices that have helped you grow?
I graduated from the School of Architecture 5 years ago. After that, I found doing small projects, spending time with clients very rewarding. The technical team could focus on design and a client success team could keep them happy. Our mission considers the "experience of architecture" - not just the design process. Getting the design to the next stage requires using high-quality architects and presentation tools. For clients, this provides tremendous confidence and VR is a huge part of building this confidence. Another unique offering that has helped us grow is offering unlimited design reviews in our quest to become a customer-focused & and innovative company. We are growing incredibly fast in the UK and are doing crowdfunding fundraiser to fund further expansion in the UK and overseas locations. Learn more about it at www.crowdcube.com/hoko
A big thank you to Danny and the Hoko Design team for sharing their experience with us.
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