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2018

LEARN SERIES latest from the HFA blog

VIRTUAL REALITY: DESIGN TOOL FOR RETAIL

Written by Jenna Stacer-Miccile


VIRTUAL REALITY: DESIGN TOOL FOR RETAIL Written by Jenna Stacer-Miccile

ARE WE READY FOR IMMERSIVE TECHNOLOGY AS A TOOL IN RETAIL DEVELOPMENT, AND IS THERE A PRACTICAL USE WITHIN THE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE COMMUNITY? YES WE ARE, AND YES THERE IS. Virtual reality (VR) technology is already reshaping

developers the flexibility to select the best method

the retail frontier. No longer just for video games and

for their particular application.

Hollywood movies, retailers are already beginning to develop virtual reality strategies to stay competitive and develop new, fun ways for consumers to shop their products.

Additionally, since most architects and designers already

use

some

form

of

three-dimensional

modeling programs, creating a project model is

Just because VR feels like science fiction doesn’t

already part of the development process, and can be

This is an invaluable

brought directly into the VR software. This provides

tool only now being recognized for its usefulness

an option for all members of the retail development

in architectural design and the retail development

team to experience the design in real time.

mean it can’t be our reality.

community at large.

The technology is there. So let’s use it! While the theoretical concept of virtual reality has been around since before Keanu Reeves even entered The Matrix, the practical use of VR technology wasn’t applicable until recently. It no longer takes supercomputers and tech experts to make VR come to life. From the Oculus Rift to downloadable cell phone apps, VR equipment and software technology is readily available to the everyday consumer, giving


Upfront visualization: The struggle is (no longer) real. Whether it is during the various design phases, leasing efforts, entitlements, or construction, trying to understand and

translate

two-dimensional

architectural

plans

and elevations can be a challenge for some. Architects have largely turned to three-dimensional design tools to address this confusion. As a designer, photo-realist renderings and computer-generated animations remain a few of the handiest tools in my bag of tricks. However, these methods only show select pieces of the big picture. With virtual reality, a client can actually walk down the sidewalk of a future mixed-use development, or peruse the aisles of a new retail prototype before

you are creating together. VR technology will help immerse anyone directly into the imagined environment. The first time our design team used VR as a tool with a client, we were all in a large conference room conducting a new restaurant-concept design review meeting.

After presenting the

design and exploring the options through 3d sketches, material boards, and floor plans, we handed the owner a VR headset for a test drive. That was the moment it all came together; our client was instantly transported into the new restaurant.

He was able to walk through the

front door, step up to the register, stroll through

construction even starts. The ability to view the entire

the dining room, stand in the kitchen, and even

project in real time from all angles can help inform design

visit the restrooms. It was instantly clear that this

decisions to a very high level of accuracy. This, in turn, can

tool provides immeasurable value in making and

facilitate early project buy-in from all stakeholders.

confirming design decisions by experiencing the

Tell a holistic story.

space.

The way the HFA design team conceptualize projects

You can bookmark that moment as a valuable

during programming and design is still fairly abstract.

experience that strongly encourages our design

This can be hard for some tenants, municipalities, and

teams to utilize VR throughout the building

even project team members to understand the project’s

process and to also share that experience with

full potential and visualize the new retail environment

clients and development teams.


Experience the future.

This is now our (virtual) reality!

On each project, it is imperative that all parties are on the same page. From the owner to the architect, consultants, and contractor, VR can help make sure each member can understand and visualize all aspects of the project and truly believe in the retail experience we are creating together. This tool is also a way to shape expectations and communicate a holistic story to potential tenants, local municipalities, and community groups. Let them experience it for themselves in the virtual world. Help bring the owner’s leadership and management teams on board early with new design initiatives through realistic experiences as the customer.

Virtual reality tours are popping up in architect’s booths at conferences and events, but it is time to take this tool back to the office, into design review and construction kickoff meetings, and even to real estate walk-throughs. Virtual reality is a tool that is too powerful not to utilize. It is no longer just for Hollywood films; virtual reality will and should become the new reality in retail development. .

Need a real-world example? Home improvement retailers are already using VR as a tool to help shoppers experience their renovation projects and kitchen remodels right there in the store. Why can’t we do the same for vacant tenant spaces? VR can help show a potential tenant how an available inline retail space can transform into a fast casual restaurant or a boutique clothing store. The possibilities are endless!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jenna Stacer-Miccile has over 12 years of retail experience and serves as Program Manager and Designer in our Boston Office.

jenna.miccile@hfa-ae.com • 508.528.0770 ext. 406

Bentonville • Boston • Fort Worth • Mexico City 479.273.7780 hfa-ae.com

Virtual Reality: Design Tool For Retail  
Virtual Reality: Design Tool For Retail