Virtual showhome software wins Scotland-wide award

Dr Farzad Pour Rahimian Leilabadi (right), of Strathclyde’s Department of Architecture, at the KE Awards ceremony with Peter Body, Chairman of Norscot Joinery, and award presenter Professor Andrea Nolan. Photo Interface.

Technology offering ‘walk throughs’ of unbuilt houses, developed in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, has won a Scotland-wide award.

The project, with Highland company Norscot Joinery Ltd, was named Innovation of the Year in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards. It produced virtual reality showhome software for use by the construction industry, allowing clients to immerse themselves in a house before it is built and to interact with the design process.

The annual awards, celebrating impact achieved through business-academic partnerships, are run by Interface, an organisation which acts as a central contact connecting businesses from all sectors to higher education institutes.

Dr Farzad Pour Rahimian Leilabadi, of Strathclyde’s Department of Architecture, said: “This project provided a great opportunity for the Architecture Department to work with this company, and we acknowledge the support of the Scottish Funding Council in making this possible.

“The company’s vision and insight was incredible and we had a great collaboration in formulating their needs based on our prior knowledge and the further research that we conducted.

“This project opened new avenues for us to collaborate on further projects, and applications for a Construction Scotland Innovation Centre-funded nine-month project and a KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) application have already been approved to further develop the collaboration.”

Peter Body, Chairman of Norscot Joinery, said: “We were very satisfied with the way this project was managed and its outcome. Having never worked with academia before, we weren’t sure what to expect.


“There was a clear synergy between our objectives and the University’s capabilities and this project has given us the confidence to move forward with the development of the product / service under consideration. As a consequence of this project there is a clear focus and ambition on behalf of both the academic partner and ourselves to create something which we see as having significant value to the self-build housing market.”

The project took shape after Interface introduced Norscot to Strathclyde, enabling the company to tap into the University’s expertise in, and knowledge of, the integration of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and gaming software to create a specialised user experience.

The challenge arose from the impracticalities of Norscot creating a showhouse for clients. Furthermore, it is equally impractical for the clients, particularly in remote locations, to make full use of existing virtual reality-based solutions, which are either not fully integrated with major BIM design packages or require highly sophisticated interfaces from the end users.

The collaboration would develop software which would act as a bridge between existing BIM software and a newly created phone app, into which the house design could be input to create a Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality rendition of the finished home.

According to Interface, Strathclyde’s role “was paramount (in) helping the company identify particular needs and develop their strategic plan in relation to development of the final product.”

As a fully customisable showroom integrated with BIM, and available through an affordable smartphone, the software is distinctive from any commercial product currently available in the market.

It is anticipated the project will ultimately result in a product or service which will assist the company in expanding its market throughout the UK, resulting in increased sales and employment.

The project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher.

All three nominations in the Innovation of the Year category were for projects involving Strathclyde. There were also shortlistings for projects with:

•             West Lothian company Dolce Stil Novo Sound for developing the Tone Magnet, a device that attaches to the bridge of an electric guitar to enhance its tone and sustain, or length of note

•             Isle of Lewis company Windswept and Interesting for developing a portable kite wind turbine prototype, using techniques for next generation sustainable wind energy applications.

In addition, Dr Neil Thomson, of Strathclyde’s Department of Pure & Applied Chemistry was nominated for the Building skills through Knowledge Exchange award, for a project with Rumbol Products of Clydebank to develop an alternative coating for its veterinary products.

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse said: “The awards are a showcase for some of the best examples we have in Scotland of what can be achieved when business and academia work together towards a common goal.

“Scotland has a growing reputation as a place where excellence is achieved through innovation. The ongoing exchange of knowledge is a crucial element of that.”