John Guest Phillips Travelling Scholarship

Report from Jennifer Whyte

Jennifer Whyte reports on a study visit she made to Japan to investigate advanced virtual reality use in Japanese house building companies.

During my two weeks in Japan, I visited house building companies, housing showrooms, research laboratories, computer companies and academics. I found that Japanese house builders make far greater use of VR than their British counterparts, and that they use it mainly for customer care and design customisation.

Houses in Japan are not regarded as permanent structures and are rebuilt every 25 years or so. A large percentage of house builders' work is re-build; building single houses on brownfield sites already owned by the client. This fact, together with a lack of stringent aesthetic planning requirements, means that house builders do not often produce visualisation of the external site layout. Site layout visualisations are however produced on a larger scale for the visualisation of government-planned new towns and areas.

Virtual reality is being widely used by house builders in Japan as one of a suite of techniques to present and explain the design to the house purchaser and to allow design customisation to suit that purchaser's specific requirements. Agile methods of production allow the Japanese house buyer great choice with regard to design customisation, and good visualisation techniques are necessary to explain the options. In housing showrooms, virtual reality complements low-tech techniques for describing forms, such as the use of small models or full-scale components, by providing an interactive medium in which to explore the whole design from a realistic human eye level.

Secretary to Prizes Committee
November 1999
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