As every designer knows, clients often have trouble visualizing space and the ways in which it might change during a remodel. Drawings help, as do massing models, but for Dean Brenneman of Brenneman and Pagenstecher in Kensington, Md., 3-D is the way to go.

Chief Architect was used to create an accurate 3-D model (left). The design, as built (right).
Brenneman and Pagenstecher Chief Architect was used to create an accurate 3-D model (left). The design, as built (right).

About 10 years ago Brenneman, an architect, began using three-dimensional modeling software (Chief Architect) to help clients visualize.

“You can make a virtual model of someone's home and walk them through it. You can turn it, look at it from any angle, and populate it with images that are fairly realistic,” he says.

Using the software also has changed the way Brenneman designs and sells. He likes to get into the 3-D space as quickly as he can and design right in the model. “I can change the 3-D model on the fly, with the client sitting there with me,” he says. “When I'm home, I can edit a model on my laptop when I get an idea. I actually sculpt the house in 3-D space while I'm designing.”

Brenneman says the sophistication of his firm's projects has taken a quantum leap forward since it started using 3-D modeling software. He can make more complex forms and visualize them in their entirety — know what something will look like for a person standing or sitting in the space, or how the space will look at various times of the day. It allows him to build a project in a virtual world, learn from it, adjust it, and learn from it again. “You're more likely to get closer to the ultimate expression of what you're trying to convey,” he says.