Real-time virtual collaboration – how digital technology is changing the way we design and collaborate in the built environment

Jan Bunge, Squint Opera

Realtime simulation of projects can help optimise their designs and foster better collaboration across the industry, allowing stakeholders to test and optimise virtually before a single brick is laid. 

Additionally, virtual simulations also allow us to measure how it feels like to be in the space, which at the end of the day is how people judge places. Being able to sense the space while we design it should help us to design better spaces faster. This focus on the experiential side of architecture, where spaces can be virtually user-tested first also bears the promise to democratise the planning process. Instead of only having to rely on people’s ability to interpret plans, sections and renderings, we can now get meaningful user feedback based on experiencing (feeling) the future spatial conditions virtually.

Real-time virtual collaborations are interactive and therefore more engaging, which has helped to keep projects moving during the lockdown. At Squint/Opera, we are developing SpaceForm, a digital platform to present projects and collaborate remotely. We built the first prototype of SpaceForm in 2018 as a collaboration between Squint/Opera, BIG and UNStudio. However, we have gone on to test and iterate this tool and most recently were selected to participate in the Epic MegaGrants program. Beyond the need for teams to connect remotely due to coronavirus, SpaceForm offers a new and more sustainable way for teams to collaborate by working together in the virtual simulation. 

These digital tools present longer-term benefits by providing us with a more sustainable way to collaborate and more effective ways of working together remotely. By focussing on how we experience our built environment, these digital tools can help us to develop better design solutions and we should see some efficiencies through virtually testing projects before they get built.