How Gaming Technology is Helping Design More Accessible Homes

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Asia-Pacific, Built Environment, Universal Design, September 10 2019

AUSTRALIA: A group of Perth university students and real estate agents have teamed up to design an accessible home using construction software inspired by the gaming industry, with the goal of raising awareness of the importance of creating universal affordable accommodation.

A computer model of one of the accessible homes.

A computer model of one of the accessible homes.

Created for a Town of Victoria Park-owned site on Boundary Road, Victoria Park, the project was initiated and managed by JLL project and development services, supported by architectural firm Studio Halton and software developer PropIntel.

Curtin University fourth-year construction and project management students used the Studio Halton plans to study how emerging digital technologies could improve design-to-construction workflows in the WA building industry.

Ryan D’Arcy, state manager at JLL project and development services, said he was currently in discussions with the WA Department of Communities and the Town of Victoria Park to construct the design to raise awareness about the importance of creating affordable accessible accommodation.

“Accessible unit’ has a negative us-and-them narrative. In most instances, it translates to wheelchair accessible. Buildings should be designed in a way that can accommodate anyone’s needs with minimal changes to fittings and fixtures,” Mr D’Arcy said.

“There is an urgent need for the market to adopt a universal accommodation mindset across the board when designing residential environments.

“Through the use of immersive technologies and bleeding-edge construction delivery software, this initiative has demonstrated how universal accommodation – that is, housing that suits anyone – can be the default mindset. We believe any home can be designed affordably with universal accommodation principles.”

Mr D’Arcy said the goal of the initiative was to show how cheaply aesthetically pleasing, universal accommodation could be built, while also preparing the students for the future construction landscape. “We hope our work will increase community awareness and increase the number of developments that can ultimately offer more living options for younger people with severe disabilities, many of whom may currently be housed in aged-care facilities,” he said. “It will also help people transition from assisted living into independent homes.”

The three-month project was not only a great way to get fresh perspectives from the construction professionals of the future, but to start paving the way for the industry to recognise and act on these needs, Mr D’Arcy said. “The focus was on learning outcomes, not speed. The home itself would take circa three days for someone trained to complete, with a few design iterations,” he said.

“The time savings are significant when you look at the how the digital workflow created from the 3D space is used to inform other actions – i.e. calculating cost, populating quotations and other project documentation.” The software, inspired by the gaming industry, allowed students to work within a 3D environment while any changes to specification, price and quantities were automatically updated.

Led by Jane Matthews, associate professor in construction management in the School of Design and the Built Environment at Curtin University, the students were the first to test the software, designed by Queensland-based PropIntel. They were split into two teams with a sketch provided by Studio Halton, to model, view, cost and plan their projects.

PropIntel chief executive Troy Cavallaro, director of technology at Cairns builder Allaro Homes, said he spent almost a decade creating the software and has plans to offer it worldwide.

“PropIntel is a platform technology which provides the construction industry with an ecosystem for the different sectors,” Mr Cavallaro said. “Architects, engineers, builders, suppliers and sub-contractors all have an interface that is fine-tuned for them. It all connects to a central database so we can really quickly share information on it and derive information from it.”

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