5 Ways Virtual Reality is Transforming Rural Healthcare Design

Simulation showing the new waiting and registration area for the University of Minnesota Duluth Family Medicine Clinic.


By Ryan Turner, AIA, ACHA, EDAC, LEED AP
Principal, Healthcare

One of the most important steps in architectural design is communicating the space to the client in a way that they not only understand but also experience. Until very recently, that has meant using paper and pencil, mockups or models, and a great deal of explanation.

But, with the recent advancements in both the quality and availability of virtual reality technology, the ways in which we design and present rural healthcare spaces has been transformed. It’s providing us with tools that enrich and improve the client’s experience.

Here are five ways we’ve seen VR technology impact our work:

  • It’s flexible enough to let our team step into a bare-bones framework in the initial design phase, or provide clients with an experience that so detailed that they can pick specific furniture to see in simulation.
  • It’s immersion that you could never get with a mockup, letting the client experience everything from space layout and wall placement to paint colors and interior finishes.
  • VR technology gives clients a higher sense of choice validation and a higher comfort level with the design before construction begins.
  • It’s an added value not only for the client, but for us as well. Clients are not used to VR technology yet and most do not expect it to be part of the experience. So when you offer it, they find it fascinating.
  • Most importantly with VR becoming more cost effective, it allows our rural clients the chance to experience their space in a way that was traditionally only accessible for projects with larger budgets.

Thanks to virtual reality technology, we are not only able to explain to our clients what a space will look like, but they can experience it as well.