TECH PEOPLE

Austin firm giving home designs a 3-D life

At CG&S Design-Build, design technician Justin Quick can take homebuyers on a near virtual reality tour before their home is built.

Posted November 14th, 2016

Justin Quick is fast with "SketchUp," a 3-D drawing program. Really, really fast.

In about four minutes, he can take a flat architectural design for a home and make a first draft of a 3-D shape, tracing the floor plans and raising walls out of lines. 

ContributedIn this 3-D rendering, photos and texture images are used to give clients of CG&S Design-Build a more visual sense of what a complete project will look like. Design technician Justin Quick uses "SketchUp" and "VRay," two pieces of software that allow him to draw and 3-D render based on architectural designs.

In three hours, he can have a presentation-ready digital 3-D model of that home, ready to be shown with color-adjustable sliders and a high level of detail.

And as final decisions are being made before construction begins, he can make changes quickly and render photorealistic files that can be viewed as if floating in virtual reality within the yet-to-be-built space. 

It's work Quick has been doing since 2010 for CG&S Design-Build, a family owned Austin firm that's been in the business since 1957. He credits the speed to not only his own 3-D drawing and design skills, but "SketchUp" and "VRay," two pieces of software that are his main tools on the job.

SketchUp is available as free 3-D drawing software, but it's also available in a $695 pro version.

"It’s so fast," he says. "It doesn't have the bells and whistles that game designers would use. But the trade-off is speed."

That speed allows Quick to make changes to a 3-D model in the middle of a client meeting on the fly. It can save time and subsequent meetings and give home owners a better idea of what the final product will look like, including paint color, tiling (with help of the ubiquitous Microsoft Paint) and even what the position of the sun and view will be outside.

Using software plus free data and plug-ins from Google, Quick can even simulate whether trees or parts of the build will block the sun during certain parts of the year.

With Vray, a plug-in for SketchUp, he creates renderings that look like still photographs, sometimes using photos of the geographic area to wrap around the model, presenting what clients will see outside their windows. Those renderings can take about 35 minutes to produce, Quick said.

ContributedIn this 3-D rendering, photos and texture images are used to give clients of CG&S Design-Build a more visual sense of what a complete project will look like. Design technician Justin Quick uses "SketchUp" and "VRay," two pieces of software that allow him to draw and 3-D render based on architectural designs. It can present a top-down view, such as this one of a bathroom.

The firm, which has about 30 employees and is housed in South Austin, it can help avoid costly mistakes, present new ideas for hard-to-explain concept or draw red flags on problems that might be evident until construction is done and appliances have been installed.

The architecture and design company specializes in residential renovations and rebuilds, but does do some new builds on occasion, mostly focused on the Austin area. Clients typically want to modernize their look or make spaces more efficient and open.

On a recent build, Quick says that it became obvious from doing a 3-D view early that a washer and dryer set would be visible across a room when visitors first entered a house and might be the first thing they notice through an open doorway.

"Those kinds of things can be worked out way early," he said.

On another project, 3-D renderings allowed CG&S to show a client what it would look like to take a brick wall from the front of a house and re-use the materials to reintegrate it into areas in the back of the home.

The real-estate industry has begun to dabble in virtual-reality renderings, which could be the future of this kind of technology. But the kind of highly detailed renderings that Quick presents to clients would likely require lots of horsepower to run in a VR setup. At present, the kinds of plans Quick can create with just a desktop computer, a pair of monitors and some software allows for 3-D fly-throughs that can view details from anywhere inside or outside the designed space.

“To me that’s something only a model can do," Quick said.

ContributedJustin Quick, a design technician at CG&S Design-Build, starts his process by importing plans from an AutoCAD design file and tracing over them in the program "SkechUp."
ContributedIn the "Massing" stage, the general shape, form and size of the building is shown. Justin Quick uses "SketchUp" to do this work for CG&S Design-Build.
ContributedIn the materials stage, Justin Quick can add textures, tiles, paint and other features to a 3-D design for CG&S.
ContributedIn the final x-ray view, viewers can peek inside and outside a home design as a 3-D space to get a view of what a build will look like once it's constructed. 

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