How to create a 3D model of a real estate in a free Blender 3D graphics editor?

How to create a 3D model of a real estate in a free Blender 3D graphics editor? Tags: VR
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Presentation of a real estate through virtual reality becomes the standard. Already built real estates can be easily photographed with a standard 360° camera and presented in the form of a realistic 3D model on the web and in VR. There are several SAAS that will process you the perfect virtual tour from your photos, or even easier, you can hire an expert who will deliver you final 3D model in the highest possible quality. On the contrary, in developer projects, there is a 3D model of the real estate earlier than the building itself.

Virtual tours are a welcome added value for the end user, however, it is not always in the interest of the seller / real estate agent to make them. Here are the common reasons of their absence:

  • For quality real estate with very fast sales, investing in the creation of a 3D model intended for presentation does not bring anything, on the contrary, it reduces the seller's profit.
  • For real estates with a defect, the quality presentation reduces the number of people willing to visit the place. This also reduces the resulting number of interested buyers and potentially reduces the price.
  • Despite the best possible virtual presentation, most end users (not investors) require still a personal inspection (gaining personal experience with the location, noise, odors, neighbors ...). The virtual tour therefore only reduces the number of clients with interest for the initial meeting.

If neither the virtual presentation nor the 3D model of the flat is easily accessible, but you have access to the dimensions (or at least a floor plan in scale), you can create the 3D model of the flat relatively easily and quickly yourself.

What is a 3D model suitable for?

The 3D model of the real estate helps to clarify the idea of the final appearance - the layout, spaciousness and darkness of its interior. In addition, it is the basis for work on interior design proposals.

Digitization of physical spaces also makes sense in connection with virtual and augmented reality - physical space can be part of a digital environment for consuming content and playing games, see the following video.

Demonstration of the interconnection of physical space and its digital twin.

Mark Zuckenberg mentioned options showed in the video already in 2015 (after gis acquisition of Oculus in 2014), when se sayed: Our vision is that VR / AR will be the next major computing platform after mobile in about 10 years. It can be even more ubiquitous than mobile - especially once we reach AR - since you can have it always on… Once you have a good VR / AR system, you no longer need to buy phones or TVs or many other physical objects - they can just become apps in a digital store..

Creating a 3D model of a flat in Blender

I have had 2 reasons to make a 3D model of my new flat which is currently under construction. 1) I wanted to have simple option to visualize planned changes (shrink the bathroom in favor of the room, furniture layout, interior design & lighting ideas) and 2) to have a model for "AR" applications (see video) and a use within a smart home application.

The first thing that came to my mind was to create a basic model (without windows and doors) in the Autodesk Inventor engineering software and then expand it for missing parts in the architectural software. Quite complicated, but I love modeling design in the Inventor software - you simply draw a 2D sketch and then either extrude it in the selected plane or revolve it around the axis. However, I soon rejected this variant and started modeling directly in the free 3D graphics software Blender. In addition to being free, it allows to create everything you need, including really great-looking models and renders. Moreover, it offers a range of add ons, including architectural ones that simplifies the modeling of the flat significantly.


Data for modeling used from an illustrative image provided by developer + dimensional floor plan of the flat

There are a lot of videos on YouTube about modeling real estate in Blender. If you are new to the software, I recommend looking at at least a few of them. Now briefly on how I modeled.

  • Blender allows you to insert an image as a template in a plane (e.g. XY). Then it's easy to draw the walls based on the template. I didn't use it, I modeled from the scratch, only on the basis of the dimensions from the floor plan.
  • For modeling I used the native add-on "Add Mesh: Archimesh" (it can be activated in "Edit → Preferences → Add-ons → Add Mesh: Archimesh)"
  • I modeled to scale, with an accuracy of 1mm
  • Archimesh objects can be inserted via "Add → Mesh → Archimesh → {specific object - eg Room}". Then the Archimesh tab are also available in the side menu (can be opened / closed with the "n" key) on the "Create" tab.
  • I created the model gradually room by room. I started each in Archimesh by selecting "Room" and adding individual walls. Each room needs to be closed with 4 walls to generate a flawless floor and ceiling. In the case of common walls between two rooms, I set the visibility of one of the walls to "hidden". I did not take into account the different wall thickness (load-bearing, partition) within the model.
  • Doors and windows are from the built-in Archimesh library. It is necessary to make sure that the position of windows, doors and other objects is set above the whole group of parts of the object. Once they are in place, a hole for them in the walls can be created by selecting their parent room object and pressing the "Auto Holes" button.
  • I inserted floors and ceilings simply by checking the "Ceiling" and "Floor" buttons on the panel of individual rooms.
  • The door is ajar by adjusting the z-axis rotation value on the door object of the door object group.
Show-case of modeling in Blender with Archimesh
The result after less than an hour of working in Blender

Furniture and appearance of the flat

The next step is to add furniture to the model. For example, thousands of Cad and BIM free models are on the Polantis website. For example, furniture from popular Ikea stores can be downloaded at https://www.polantis.com/ikea.

Similarly, it is possible to download textures (wood, tiles, plaster) for assignment to individual parts of the apartment in specific rooms.

Tour in VR

The digital version of the flat can be exported from Blender and imported into the Unity game engine that contains XR drivers enabling browsing of the flat in virtual reality. I will elaborate this part of the article more after the publication of the XR Framework, which I am currently working on. This will not only reduce required time for setting up a new VR project, but also activate all the necessary XR drivers by simply dragging them into the Unity scene. Thanks to this, the creation of the VR tours to any apartment model will become super easy even for beginners.

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