$85 million Rutgers School of Business recreated virtually with Unity3D game engine

Construction is now officially underway on the new Rutgers School of Business, designed by the renowned architecture studio Ten Arquitectos (frequently covered by arcspace), but you don’t have to wait until construction is complete to explore the new design!  Arch Virtual recently completed a virtual prototype of the new facility for Rutgers University, replicating the design based on architectural CAD drawings, BIM models and blueprints provided by the architect, then publishing them into realtime 3D with the Unity3D game engine.  See a video preview of the virtual model below, and see some screenshots of the model here.

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Rutgers University leveraged the best of several virtual platforms throughout design development of this project. In early design phases, Arch Virtual replicated the design in Second Life, which was ideal for recreating the schematic and conceptual models and making the design accessible to students and faculty (seen here).  That model was then brought into OpenSim, where it was integrated into a more comprehensive model of the campus, including more of the context surrounding the Business School’s new building site.

When final construction documents were ready, we interpreted the architect’s CAD drawings and BIM model with Autodesk Maya, that could be brought into the Unity3D game development engine. Rutgers worked with Tipodean Technologies to export their OpenSim islands, including buildings surrounding the new business school. Tipodean converted them into Collada mesh format, along with the textures, which were then added to the Unity3D environment. The final result is a blend of the architectural model alongside meshes exported from OpenSim.

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With the model in Unity, Rutgers will now be able to embed the virtual model into a variety of formats. For example, they can embed the model directly a website or Facebook page, but could also publish the same model to be accessible from Android or iPad mobile devices, or as stand-alone applications that can be installed on a Mac or PC and run locally without being online, and at full screen.

To follow the progress of the virtual Rutgers School of Business, join the Rutgers University Virtual Worlds facebook page at:

To learn more about how Arch Virtual can translate your blueprints, CAD, or BIM file into a virtual experience, contact us here.





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Now Available! Architectural Beginners Kit 2 for Architecture and Design Projects Build in Unity3D

Check out Architectural Beginners Kit 2!  If you’re not a programmer, this is a must-have toolkit for architecture and design visualization projects built with Unity3D.

Here’s a video showing the kit in action:

Here’s a demo build:

Here’s where you can purchase the kit for $45:

Here’s what the kit includes:

Click to Look: instead of having to lock and unlock the mouse to click buttons, this kit now includes a ‘click to look’ setup, where the scene doesn’t move unless you want it to.

Scene Switch: Load several models, and let visitors switch between them.  For example, you might load several iterations or options for a design project you’re working on.  Visitors will now be able to simply click a button to switch between them.

Waypoints: Set up various waypoints in your scene, and enable visitors to access those locations just by clicking a button.  For example, you might have waypoints set up for the Lobby, Offices, Cafeteria, etc. so visitors can quickly access those areas without wandering through the model trying to find it.

View Switching: The default mouselook view is great, but sometimes those traditional Plan, Section or Elevation views are helpful to understand the design.  With this feature, you can set up those views, and enable visitors to your project to switch between them.

Quality Toggle: You never know what kind of computer your visitors are using.  With Quality Settings toggle, they can adjust it to suit their own computer’s performance.  If they’re on a netbook, they can toggle it way down to ‘Fastest’ – which won’t look as great, but it won’t lag as much.  If they’re on a super fast machine, they can enjoy the highest possible quality settings.

Detailed Tutorial Documentation: As with the previous kit, the tutorial documentation is just as valuable as the prefab elements themselves.  You can drag and drop the prefabs into your scene, or you can dig deeper, learn how they work, and customize them to suit your project’s specific requirements.

We hope you enjoy the new Kit!  We’re already brainstorming the next kit, and welcome any suggestions for specific features you would like to see included.  Send us a note at info (at) if you have any questions.

unity3d prefab tutorial documentation kit

Architectural Beginner’s Kit 1 is available here:

Welcome to my home: first attempts at using Unity3D for architectural visualization

Cross posted from The ARCH Network main site!

Chez Keystone! Come on in…(plugin required).

This isn’t multi-user (yet), and navigation might take some getting used to, but this is an Autodesk Revit ‘as-built’ model of my home, imported into the Unity game development platform I wrote about last week.  If I make a change in Revit and save it, the Unity build dynamically updates. With the exception of the trees, this is pretty much a raw output from Revit without any optimization (which is why it looks so crude). If I spent a few hours on it, I could add dynamic lighting and even import lightmaps to really enhance the model.   I can also export it to Nintendo Wii, iPhone or a variety of other platforms if I really wanted to, but at this point, I don’t have the necessity or resources to do so.

I should add a disclaimer that we didn’t design this house, but we are planning a green make-over in several stages in the months and years ahead, so we’ve been using this model to test master plan ideas.  I haven’t built or enabled access to the interior spaces, but I will soon.   This is just a starting point for design exploration, so even though I don’t have much to demo yet, I wanted to share some of my initial progress and publish updates with more thoughts on what I’ve learned about using Unity in professional practice.


What I like most about Unity so far is the ability to quickly and easily embed the virtual model on a web browser, or to a stand-alone .exe application if need be.  This makes it much easier to share design ideas with long distance clients that might not have the time or patience to deal with a registration process, large client downloads and orientation of larger virtual worlds.  Once they get the hang of using their mouse and arrow keys, just about anyone, even on lower end machines, can be walking around inside of a design concept within a few seconds.

When the time comes to add additional details and entourage, I simply save most raw file-types in their native format to the Assets folder of the project.  Unity then automatically finds updates if I change the model in its native application (Maya, 3DS Max, Photoshop, etc.).   What I find doubly enticing about this work-flow is that I can transition my assets into any platform I choose without being locked into a proprietary format.  For example, if/when Second Life enables mesh imports, I should be able to take these same raw assets and use them in SL, or Blue Mars, or on whichever platform I wish – without having to rebuild everything from scratch.  I will then be able to choose which virtual platform is most appropriate for the project’s requirements.

I also like the fact that the indie version of Unity is free to download and use.  Plus, its relatively easy to learn – much easier than any other 3D app I’ve worked with.  Also, there is a rapidly growing community of Unity users and support forums to find answers to just about any question you have, and lots of in-depth tutorials to help you get started.

With several companies building MMO’s or virtual worlds on Unity, it probably won’t be long before I can drop this model into a virtual world for multi-user, and avatar-based experiences.  However, I don’t think we will see realtime, in-world building tools in Unity the way we have in Second Life, or OpenSim.  Unity wasn’t designed or intended to be used that way.  I also think that any Unity worlds that do surface will likely be smaller, niche communities.  For those reasons and more,  I really don’t see Unity as any threat or comparison to Second Life or OpenSim.  However, for online, realtime, virtual architectural visualization, Unity is definitely a platform worth exploring.

Be sure to check out this thread in the Unity forum about architectural visualization in Unity:

Also, check out a recent post by epredator on his Life at the Feeding Edge blog regarding the combined application of Unity, OpenSim, Evolver and Smartfox to create the next generation of virtual worlds.