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Living in the future: in 3D: the house in the computer
Living in the future: in 3D: the house in the computer

Future is imagination. And creating a good idea is Roland Blach's field of work. The institute in Stuttgart resides in a futuristic building that was simulated down to the smallest detail in a 3D computer even before it was built. Even after completion, Roland Blach is still very much about the visualization of buildings - which do not yet exist.


Graduate engineer Roland Blach says with a smile about himself that he comes from the virtual. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organization (IAO) in Stuttgart, he heads the competence team for virtual environments. The virtual environments that it generates allow the viewer to move three-dimensionally in real time in buildings, landscapes or vehicles. The expert calls this immersion of the audience in a (still) non-existent space “immersion”.

THE HOUSE: They develop software to build houses on the computer long before they are built. What is this for?

Roland Blach: With this system you can put yourself in a building and find out whether all plans correspond to the desired functions. We have a CAVE here in the house - this is a projection that not only has a screen in the front, but also on the floor and on the sides. To do this, wear 3D glasses with position markers so that the computer always knows the location of the viewer. This completely immerses you in the virtual world.

That sounds a bit like science fiction

We are working here in a new building from 2012, the entire construction process of which we accompanied with our visualization. It was a useful tool for everyone involved. There is a nice anecdote: the builders were initially skeptical about the design and wanted to know why we wanted to build like this. But after a very detailed 3D demonstration, they were convinced. And although it is equipped with a lot of technology, the house works perfectly. It has already won a sustainability award.

Some buildings require up to 40% of the budget to repair mistakes. Can your software help avoid this?

The system initially leads to improved communication. During construction, we always had the situation that artisans came to us who had problems with the two-dimensional construction plan. We then went to our projection in the annex. With the blueprint in hand, the craftsmen looked at the 3D representation and said: Now I understand it. The 3D view helps enormously because it is so clear. This is also useful for the client: he can see exactly where a pillar or wall is, where the window is coming from and what the view is like.

Will this technology be found on more construction sites soon?

3D displays and projectors are widely used. I assume that in the case of larger construction sites, a 3D projection of the building will soon be visible in the construction container, where the plans are. The next step would be to have the plans on an iPad. A camera can be used to target part of the building, and the computer then shows which cables and pipes are already there or are still to be installed. There are also considerations to do this with smart glasses like the new Google Glass.

How long will we have to wait for such applications?

Similar apps already exist on smartphones. The software recognizes silhouettes through the camera and knows exactly where to look. These are applications for travel guides or museums. Even a large furniture store already has such an app: you can have furniture or kitchen equipment from the catalog "beamed" into a picture on your smartphone and even move through it, similar to a computer game.

How do you see the role computers will play in tomorrow's homes?

For me, the 230 volt network is like the bloodstream of the house, which supplies the muscles with energy and strength. An Ethernet or WiFi system is the nerve costume that gives the commands to individual segments, to the cooling, the heating, the windows. However, some systems are not yet as reliable as we would like them to be today.

How will computers change our homes in the future?

So far, the computer was in front of us. Now he's starting to grow around us. The devices flow together to form the “Internet of Things”. An example: We have a TV or computer screen in many places in the house. We also carry around displays in the form of smartphones. Why can't I use all the screens around me in passing so that the display appeals to me and asks if it should show my content? Technically, the components are there. But we still have to integrate them. This could include an interface for gestures that can read the swiping and pressing movements that I now make on a touchscreen in the room. In such a way that I can use it anywhere. That's where the computer meets architecture.

Which of these should a builder install in the next few years?

He has to think about the integration of the computers. An alternative would be to do everything wirelessly. But that's a bet on the future. It's still fine today, but tomorrow we probably want to send a lot more data. Think of 4K high definition television, which has four times more data than HDTV! If everyone wants to see their own program in the house, the range is very narrow. However, the amount of data that can be sent through the air is limited. I would lay cables in each channel in cable channels so that I can easily expand. From there you can wirelessly branch the network to individual devices. Then you are well equipped.

Bauen für die Zukunft
Bauen für die Zukunft

Photo: Callwey Verlag

Our tip: A more detailed version of this expert interview was published in our book "Building for the Future", which we published on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the house. In addition to further interviews, you will also find specific planning tips, the latest trends in the construction industry and more.

This article is part of the series: "Living and living in the future". If you are interested, you will find even more exciting topics in the overview.

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