The Value of Visualization and Virtual Reality in Laboratory Design

Matthew Edmonds, Page
Mike Reilly, Page

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Laboratory design is inherently complex due to the many "coupled" relationships that are influenced by individual decisions. Building consensus and avoiding physical conflicts is critical to project success, yet not all project stakeholders have an equal understanding of traditional drawing conventions. While certainly not a substitute for technical drawings, virtual reality serves as a tremendous supplement to enable owners and design team members to better engage in the design process without having the experience of understanding two-dimensional plans.

This presentation will detail the many technologies available to graphically represent a laboratory design concept. Depending on the project team's goals (speed, visual quality, accuracy, integration of external data, interactivity, changeability, etc), there are several tools available to build consensus and avoid resource-intensive retrofits. The use of real-time visualization allows for an immediate understanding of the impact of both natural and artificial lighting conditions in a laboratory environment. This helps the team to make important decisions earlier in the design process on issues such as window sizes and exposure, daylight controls, artificial lighting controls, solar heat gain potential, reduction of potential glare conditions, and the sizing of HVAC systems.

This presentation will include several case studies that employed Enscape, 3DS Max Interactive, Unreal Engine, and additional technologies with direct client involvement/interaction. In contrast to more typical still image renderings, all technologies presented will be true virtual reality walk-throughs that were experienced by clients in real-time. Case studies will include laboratory renovations at CU Boulder, new construction at CSU's Western Slope Campus, and equipment planning projects for confidential clients, among others.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the pros and cons of several virtual reality technology options;
  • Determine the technology solution that is appropriate for their specific project;
  • Define the workflow required to integrate the chosen technology solution; and
  • Communicate expectations that ensure a successful execution/delivery.


For 30 years Matt has been a pioneer in the utilization of digital techniques in the design process. Since his first days in architecture school in the late 1980s, he has leveraged cutting-edge tools to solve problems and communicate ideas clearly. With a background in fine arts, his work combines both creative and technical expertise to generate imaginative and compelling design solutions. Firmwide, Matt leads Page's VR group and leverages real-time visualization techniques on every project.

Mike is a licensed architect in Colorado and serves as a project manager for complex laboratory renovation projects, collaborating within the Colorado area and beyond. Mike has a passion for technically challenging projects that require tightly coordinated design and ownership teams. He was an early adopter of virtual reality tools to assist project stakeholders make more informed decisions.


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