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Going virtual : The evolution of traditional frame walks | Alpha Vision

Going virtual : The evolution of traditional frame walks

A milestone in the homebuilding process, frame walks let stakeholders improve the new home design by identifying potential issues before going to market. The collaborative process allows homebuilders’ teams to assess aspects of the home potentially overlooked in a CAD drawing. During a frame walk, all mechanical systems, including electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, are evaluated to ensure the final home meets everyone’s expectations.

However, as we’ll explore, onsite frame walks also have disadvantages. For instance, the recent pandemic made these in-person events logistical headaches. In any case, reuniting all relevant team members onsite is often wishful thinking due to everyone’s busy schedules (and not to mention, it’s expensive and time-consuming). But thanks to new technologies, the most effective frame walks no longer need to happen onsite or even in person. In fact, they’re entirely virtual.

Let’s take a closer look at how VR frame walks save homebuilders time and money—and how the same technology can be leveraged as a powerful sales tool!

The pros and cons of traditional frame walks

At first glance, it would seem that a frame check’s greatest strength is that it happens onsite. After all, physically being inside the framed home can reveal issues that simply don’t appear on paper.

But not so fast… With recent strides in VR technology, it’s now possible to perform a virtual frame walk that’s even more effective than the traditional equivalent! Specifically, VR frame walks sidestep three major issues encountered on onsite visits:

Firstly, onsite frame walks often reveal costly changes, putting builders and buyers in the difficult situation of cherry-picking which changes to implement. It forces them to neglect valuable improvements simply because there isn’t enough time to execute.

Secondly, even if the team discovers things they’d like to tweak in the actual framing of the house, it’s likely too late to make a change. This fact is especially true due to recent supply chain disruptions. And even when it’s not too late, these changes drastically increase costs and delay the go-to-market timeline.

And lastly, in a world where remote work is increasingly common, getting an entire team physically onsite is more challenging than it used to be.

The VR advantage

With a VR walkthrough, a team gathers in person at the office or remotely to walk through a VR exhibit of the home interior and exterior. The highly engaging VR tool depicts every detail of a finished home with accurate measurements and high-resolution graphics.

The entire process saves time on several fronts. For one, when you don’t have to coordinate travel times. VR makes coordination more efficient. Moreover, when changes are spotted, it takes far less time to perform them on a virtual structure than on a real one!

Additionally, the building team can review everything from structural to finishings, an experience that’s far richer than touring a real-life framed construction. If any major design flaws are discovered, it’s obviously less expensive to tweak a 3D rendering than overhaul a framed building. Therefore, builders can make last-minute improvements that wouldn’t be in the budget if the home was already framed.

Moreover, VR walkthroughs are especially practical when in-person meetings aren’t feasible. By using a teleconferencing platform, everyone can share and explore the walkthrough collaboratively and remotely while offering input. Long drives (or flights!) to a location are no longer necessary.

Every element accounted for

VR sessions may be unfurnished or can include finishings and décor—but the realism expands far beyond the houses themselves. For instance, we worked extensively with award-winning homebuilding company Shea Homes to create immersive experiences for several of its Arizona communities.

To create accurate settings for each VR exhibit, we performed onsite 360° photography of the surrounding landscapes and incorporated prominent geographical elements. The surrounding elements ensure that the feeling of being on site isn’t missing from a VR frame walk.

A VR frame walk of Verde Trails

Recently, Alpha Vision and the Shea Homes team performed a completely virtual frame walk for Visions at Verde Trails, a planned desert community in Arizona. Located outside Scottsdale, Visions at Verde Trails offers four highly customizable plans for single-family detached homes priced from $469,201.

Using a gaming computer and X-Box controller, we navigated the virtual construction with more than a dozen of their professionals. During the walkthrough, the Shea team assessed that the soffits matched, that the windows were at the right height, and a slew of other elements that make a home appealing to home buyers. The virtual space also included optional minimalist furniture so we could get a better sense of the home’s livability.

While reviewing one of the floor plans, the whole team had a chuckle when spotting an aesthetic flaw on the second floor. The moment we moved up the staircase, a toilet appeared in full display at the end of the corridor when the door was left open. It was a comical display, drawing the team’s attention away from the rest of the second floor’s configuration.

Given that this was a compartmentalized bathroom, the team decided to keep the design as is but left a note to instruct the future sales team to keep the actual toilet door closed, ensuring the toilet isn’t the first thing the buyer lays eyes on when ascending the stairs.

Tracy Finley, Vice President of Architecture at Shea Homes, remarked, “This is interesting. In a traditional frame walk, we may have missed this issue. VR revealed it by including swinging doors and elements such as plumbing fixtures—this VR exhibit is really panning out as a great tool for us!”

VR walkthroughs for builders—and buyers, too

When it comes to inspecting and reviewing floor plans, VR is now more powerful than real-life walkthroughs. But VR presentations are helpful for more than just frame checks. The same VR exhibit used for the frame walkthrough can later extend as a marketing tool, showcasing plans to potential homebuyers with options and finishes personalization. With richly detailed interiors and exteriors, VR homes let homebuilders offer earlier pre-selling buying experiences before a single model home is constructed.

As the homebuying experience increasingly takes place online, the homebuilding process can, too. By moving frame checks offsite and into the virtual world, homebuilders can streamline their design and review processes to build even more beautiful homes with much greater efficiency.