Communicating your design as an Architect is one of the most important parts of your role. If you cannot communicate your design then stakeholders will not understand it, or even worse, misinterpret it completely. To assist in clearly communicating, Architects across the globe have changed their processes from working and drawing in 2D, to creating virtual models to generate their documentation. The problems with these BIM authoring tools are that the quality of the 3D outputs that they create are typically not to a high enough standard, or to create a high-quality image takes a very long time to render.

This weakness in the BIM authoring tools has seen the creation of real-time rendering software, Enscape. As a plugin, Enscape directly connects to Archicad via API and enables Architects using Archicad to produce a wide variety of outputs to assist them in communicating with their stakeholders.

Enscape can export 3D photorealistic perspectives, 360-degree panoramas (cloud-based or downloadable), executable files, and cloud-based model saving (to enable manual navigation without Enscape or Archicad loaded on your computer), fly-through movies, and most importantly, Virtual Reality navigation. Essentially Enscape covers the weaknesses of Archicad in communicating the design in a fast and efficient manner and opens Archicad up to VR, which in my opinion, is a must-have for every Architectural project that I deliver. Most importantly, VR is only two clicks of the mouse away from the 3D window in Archicad!

Licensing

Enscape has two licensing types available, fixed seat and floating. The fixed seat license cost me AUD 639 per year, with the floating license costing a little bit more at just under AUD 1,100. For sole practitioners, the fixed seat license is what I recommend. For practices with more than 1 team member needing access to Enscape, I recommend the floating license type, as it enables one person at a time access to the license from the same practice.

For students, educators, and non-commercial institutions, Enscape offers a full version of their software for free here.

Learning Curve

Enscape is very intuitive and easy to use compared to other real-time rendering software platforms that are available for Archicad users. Users will typically skip formal training and jump straight into the software and be able to use it. I do recommend investing a little bit of time upfront and watch a couple of tutorial videos from the Enscape YouTube channel here. This hour or two invested will pay off big time, with the output quality that you will achieve being so much higher once you understand all the options that Enscape makes available to you.

Connectivity

Enscape has an API link with Archicad. The API enables live connectivity between Enscape and Archicad. As elements are changed within Archicad, the elements change live in Enscape. This direct connectivity is a great facilitator for collaborative design, as stakeholders can observe the design in Enscape while you (the designer) can make changes live in Archicad, responding to comments or queries from your client or collaborators.

Quality of Output

The quality of the outputs you can achieve from Enscape are of the highest standard. Below you can see the quality of still images you can achieve when PBR textures are applied to elements. To see the quality of output you can achieve in recording movies, head to the 40:00 mark of the presentation above.

You can also experience a 360-degree panorama by scanning this QR Code.

Library Content

The Enscape library contains over 2,400 elements. These elements, including landscape, people, and furnishings, add a level of realism to your architectural model. The trees move in the computer-generated wind and produce spectacular shadowing from the realistic sun positioning taken directly from Archicad.

The asset content can be placed directly in Archicad, unlike the real-time rendering solution, which enables accurate placement in Archicad. The content when placed in Archicad are proxies that are low polygon count so that it does not slow down your model navigation in 3D, but in Enscape, appears with photo-realism

The only negative of the library assets is the lack of ability to change the size of elements, they are all fixed sizes, which is a challenge when you want to have different sized landscape elements or want to change table or chair sizes slightly

Overall Cost

The overall cost of Enscape compared to other real-time rendering software platforms is very low and economical. Currently, the main competing software to Enscape is offered free to Archicad users that are on a select agreement, making it appear to be the best solution for most users. Although the licensing of this software is free, the time it takes to become proficient in the tool, and the time it takes to produce a similar quality output is significantly longer. This is where you realise the cost of the software is insignificant compared to the labour costs in learning and delivering, making Enscape my choice in delivering projects based on quality and cost to deliver each project successfully.

Conclusion

Overall, I believe that Enscape is the best real-time rendering software solution for my business. The use of Enscape for client design meetings with VR has enabled better communication of the proposed design. It has also enabled clients that do not understand Architectural drawings to participate and collaborate in the design of their projects. The quick and easy production of photorealistic images of design concepts from Enscape for another client enabled them to communicate their proposed projects to their key stakeholders and obtain sign off easier. One quick project turned into a second major project which provided a return on investment very quickly on the software cost and training time multiple times over. Had I been using the other product, I don’t believe that I would have been able to achieve the deliverables in the time that I did using Enscape, making the project affordable to the client and enabling me to deliver the project at my nominated rates.

Enscape offers a 14-day free trial of their software. I strongly recommend that you take the plunge and try it today. I know that once you try it out, see how easy it is, and how quickly you can produce high-quality outputs, you will just like me and the many other Enscape users, realise it is the best real-time rendering solution for Archicad users.

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