01 Jan 2009
© Generation 3D | A 3D printed model of Birmingham City Centre
To quote my colleague Dominic Smith in his recent blog about the Language of Public Consultation:
“Consultation and engagement with local communities plays an ever increasing role in the planning system and the preparation of planning applications”
As part of Lichfields’ graphic design team, I produce quality consultation materials for face to face and digital events every day.
The use of high quality technical drawings and 3D renders of a proposed scheme helps to bring a scheme to life. However, they can be difficult to interpret for those who aren’t used to reading them. It’s therefore important that we explore other ways of engaging with stakeholders and communities to ‘put them at the heart’ of the scheme they are reviewing. Here are some ways in which this can be done:
Historically, whilst extremely helpful, cost and time have been barriers to supplying hand-made scale models for consultation use. In recent years, the growth in 3D printing (which has been compared to the second industrial revolution) has seen a rise in businesses using 3D printing as a tool to produce models easier, faster and cheaper. See my blog 3D Printing in construction, health and manufacturing for further detail. Scale models give you the freedom to walk around a project, pick up individual elements and to view it from any angle. By using 3D printing, models are now far easier to produce accurately and economically to engage more widely in the planning process.
Considering the size and materials
The variation of materials that can be used to create objects in 3D printers are as wide and varied as the objects they can produce. As such it is very difficult to state set costs as there are a number of variables. Plastics are by far the most commonly used material for smaller objects but more robust materials such as metals are used when the object is larger. I have created the below animation which summarises the considerations for sizes and materials. While this blog has focused on creating more solid, architectural models, 3D printers can also be used to print organic materials such as food or even replacement organs or bodyparts.
VR & AR – The virtual is now an affordable reality.
There are two ways to access the virtual world.
There is the ‘Ready Player One’ method (or Virtual Reality – VR) which was at first developed for the gaming industry and involves putting on a pair of goggles to give you an immersive 360 degree experience inhabiting that world. VR production company ReWind was an early adopter of VR as a public consultation tool back in 2015 by using it to create a virtual tour of Furze Croft in Weybridge, a property that boasted former residents Tom Jones, John Terry and Elton John. Attendees of the Masterpiece Fair in London experienced a 360 degree VR tour of the building.
The second format is Augmented Reality (AR),which, rather than inhabiting a virtual world, allows the virtual image to be overlaid on top of the normal world by looking through a virtual window. The most famous version of this tech to date is Pokemon Go (ask your children!).
Lichfields is at the forefront of creating high quality materials for use at public consultation and engagement events. However, a developments’ benefits lie beyond statistics. These new technologies have the potential to impact hugely on the property industry and in the case of AR to also make the consultation process more accessible by reaching those unable to attend an event in person. In addition to exploring new technologies, we provide a full event design and digital service to our clients. I, for one, am excited to see where these technologies take us.