Wanting to charge for estimates is what drove Rob Baugher, owner of Baugher Design & Remodel, in Birmingham, Ala., to eventually develop virtual project tours. “We knew that if we did a drawing in conjunction with pricing, it was an easier sell,” he says.

As technology improved, Baugher’s designers moved from pencil and paper to using Chief Architect 3-D design software. Now the designers share designs with clients by projecting them in 3-D on a 9-foot screen. “It’s really what separates us from our competition,” Baugher says.

3-D Insight

Once clients sign a design agreement and Baugher’s designers have taken measurements of the home, the designers use Chief Architect to draw up the existing home and develop the design.

At the fifth client meeting, clients come to the office to view their project in 3-D, allowing it to be rotated, flipped, and viewed from different perspectives. In the “dollhouse” feature, clients look down into the home; in the “glass house” view, they see through it.

Making changes takes seconds. Using manufacturers’ digital catalogs, designers apply true paint colors and outfit the 3-D virtual home with appliances, windows, and fixtures.

When the process is complete, clients get a disc — essentially a movie of their project — to take home.

Communication Boost

Baugher’s virtual tours not only let clients experience their project but help his team “solve a lot of structural issues before we get to the jobsite,” he says. Project managers tape the relevant virtual image to each wall — a process that also helps decrease change orders.

The whole system, Baugher says, “enables clients to come in and discuss things with us that they didn’t know how to talk about before. Using the pictures boosts communication and, in the long run, we boost satisfaction.” 

Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about software and 3-D design tools:

Virtual Ease: Sharing 3-D PDFs with clients

3-D Training Tools: Three-dimensional design made easy with sketchUp

One-Hour Design Parties Offer a Low-Cost Way to Pique Homeowner Interest

Seeing Is Believing: Design sofware helps clients visualize their project