The Future of Green Building in the Metaverse

Here’s what the coming of 3D internet means for green building. 

The ongoing digital transformation of businesses worldwide continues to affect all industries, including those of the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry…and of green building. 

In 1993, AOL advanced the use of email. In the 1990s, we saw the introduction of digital cameras, CD-ROMS, and the start of the public internet and websites. The iPhone was introduced in 2007. Now, in 2022, the next big development in internet technology is underway. It is the beginning of the 3D internet, which some people are calling “the Metaverse.”

The conditions imposed by the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021 further accelerated the use of computers in the building industry and green building, in the form of increased adoption of online meeting technologies. People had to be isolated, but still needed to be in communication with other people, schools and places of business. This affected the design of homes, businesses, and schools to accommodate “working remotely, learning remotely.” 

Now, as things begin to go back to normal, many people have found there are some advantages to remote working and continue to explore technologies that encourage it. There has already been an increased demand for home offices in residential design, as some people are continuing to work remotely several days a week.

The Future of Green Building in the Metaverse

Real-time, 3D visualization software enables builders to create a 3D model of a house. The image can be displayed during online discussions with the contractor and client. 

My experience during the pandemic included designing a house to be built in Montana for clients currently living on the East Coast. We were able to design the house, coordinating with the clients in Maryland and the contractor in Montana, from my location in California. 

The meetings with the clients took place online and included the general contractor. This was excellent, in that we were able to incorporate the contractor’s advice, preferences, and experience during early discussions of the project design. This was easier than limiting our interaction to in-person meetings. Also, everyone enjoyed the convenience of meeting from their own locations. 

The clients did travel to the site to coordinate selections and perform a number of site visits. And, we were available during the construction period to answer any on-site building questions.

The real-time 3D visualization software we were using allowed us to create a 3D model of the house to show during online discussions with the contractor and client. We could make changes and incorporate suggestions in real-time, during our meetings. 

There’s more to come. 

This new aspect of visualization technology for buildings is developing rapidly and will play a significant role in the future of green building. The ability to create and show 3D spaces and objects online, and walk around and through the house early in the design phase, is a step toward the development of the 3D internet.

As development of 3D internet technology continues, clients will be able to walk and look around and “see” the building in 3D—not as just a set of 2D drawings. Those won’t be obsolete—the normal 2D drawings will continue to exist to show the plan, elevations, sections, details and any perspective renderings.  

Many people have already commented that this process is “like being able to do a construction period walk-through or final walk around the building...but during the design phase, when changes can be made easily.” Usually, this is not possible until much later, when the project is under construction and when any changes or adjustments would be considerably more expensive or impossible to do. 

This 3D experience will enable clients, during the design process and before construction begins, to easily make suggestions and recommendations that everyone agrees would improve the project.

Benefits of 3D Internet for Building

Because architecture, engineering, and construction are, in fact, dealing with 3D objects and  spaces, the 3D internet will be tremendously beneficial to all professions and trades in the AEC industry. It will also improve communication and selection of green building elements. Along with the 3D information of size and shape of any 3D object, there will be the ability to include additional, valuable information about that product or object.

The capabilities of 3D technology can include the ability to offer information about the 3D object’s attributes, characteristics, qualities, installation instructions, needed clearances and connections, and eventually the ability to connect with a supplier to check on availability of the product. The end result will be increased efficiency and effectiveness of green building. 

Providing information about their green building project can help product manufacturers feature and communicate the “green” aspects of their products as part of the 3D objects that represent their products. This will allow homeowners, contractors, architects, designers and green builders to more easily find and select green products that help them achieve their green building goals. 

Smart Cities design

In the future, 3D internet will allow potential clients to visit and examine newly built green buildings, and also acquire information on related products. 

Product manufacturers are currently exploring this capability. I had discussions with a number of them during this summer’s Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in San Francisco, and confirmed that they are already exploring 3D object technology and 3D internet capabilities that will lead to successful 3D internet participation. Home products and materials retail stores are also becoming involved with the 3D internet.

The development of the 3D internet is facilitated by the convergence of the computer technology of four major industries: film and TV, computer gaming, automotive, and the AEC. Each has, for years, used software developed uniquely for each industry. 

Now, because of similar needs to show 3D environments, with people, buildings, cars, movement and interaction that are common to each of these industries, the technology that was unique to film and TV, and computer games, is becoming available to architects, engineers, and contractors. Over the next decade, this technology will become a standard feature in the industry.

The 3D Internet of the Future

Recently, the Metaverse Standards Forum (MSF) was formed and has quickly grown to more than 1,400 member companies. Standards will soon be developed for the 3D internet, similar to those for the existing internet so that we can easily visit and explore the many 3D internet sites that will make up the Metaverse. 

Just like there is no “one internet” but a series of websites that share standards so that we can visit each of them, the 3D internet will be made up of many 3D internet sites, all sharing the same standards. 

So, imagine in the future, having a 3D internet site of your own where you can allow potential clients to visit and walk around the green buildings that you have built. In addition, imagine product manufacturers having 3D internet showrooms that you and your clients can visit to see and acquire information on products for your green buildings; where you can easily download a 3D object of that product that can be incorporated into the drawings and product lists for your project. Those are just a few of the many promises that the 3D internet will bring to green builders.