Had a chat with a developer last week who passed by the office. He happened to mention that one of his biggest challenges was that the photorenders done before breaking ground almost always didn’t reflect what eventually got built. In fairness, I’ve heard this before. A fair few times actually.
I can see why this could happen. Changes in the project budget, changes in the material palette, redesign of the interior spaces, which would obviously impact the external façade etc. These tend to happen in a fair few projects.
Having said that, I’m of the opinion that barring any major upheavals its possible to get fairly close. Most, if not all, of the projects we’ve undertaken tend to come fairly close in terms of comparison with the initial photorenders.
I’d attribute this to a couple of things:
1. We design in 3 dimensions: Right from the initial Outline Design phase through to the Final Design phase, we prefer to design in 3 dimensions, meaning we not only work on the plan, but simultaneously work on the envelope. This leads to a fairly thorough understanding of what you expect the façade to look like when done, and as such don’t expect any surprises during construction that may lead to a change in the external envelope
2. Think through the project at the outset: I know this sounds basic, but the truth is at times we’re all guilty of putting in a façade element just there that we feel enhances the external aspect…the problem is we don’t normally stop and think…really think…about just how the contractor is going to go about building it, or how the Structural Engineer is going to make sure it stands!
3. Carefully consider your material choices: Its all well and good looking to break the elevation with a change in the texture, but you have to be realistic about availability AND applicability. You may want to work with a particular material, but the problem would be if the material isn’t really available, or for that matter if it is available but the chances of the applicator executing it to the requisite standard being fairly slim. It may be a more pragmatic approach to use a substitute. Which is not to say that you should shy from using new materials…far from it. The design phase is when these choices ideally are made, and that should ring a fairly loud warning bell that should make you go out and learn everything you can about the new material including its application, availability and pitfalls, so when you begin to finish the building you have a fairly good idea of the quality expected.
4. Choose a good architectural visualizer: We work with both an in house Architectural Visualizer, as well as outsourced Visualizers. Some of the visualizers are exceedingly good at capturing a stunning visual at the expense of glossing over some of the more intricate architectural features, most times either glossing over them or embellishing them. A good visualizer has the ability to pick out the actual finished product, and balance it with stunning visuals that COMPLEMENT the architecture. The renders are a vital part of finally and fully appreciating what the expected final outcome will be. As such they are as much a design tool as your drafting software is. (For an example of Architectural Visualization done right, see Z-Depth Ltd).
5. Get the Client on board: The client needs to be taken through the external draft visuals continuously. Ideally, this will avoid any changes on their part during construction, as they will be well in the picture (no pun intended) as to what the expected final development will look like. Once you get to the stage where you are doing final renders, make them aware that this is it…don’t expect the building to look any different from what is seen on the renders.
Unfortunately, its not always possible to ensure the final product looks exactly like the photorenders. The colour scheme, for example, seems to be one of the most popular changes from the renders. I attribute this to the fact that the client assumes the initial colour scheme wasn’t the final one, while the Architect does.
Having said that, I suppose a few changes in the colour scheme aren’t too bad. Could be worse!
Have a look at these before and after photos: