Paula Heikell, For the Sun-News March 12, 2017
LAS CRUCES – David and Wendy Clarke are ushering a new kind of design process into the Las Cruces architectural marketplace and couldn’t be more excited about it.
The Clarkes were looking for a new challenge when they acquired WDG Architects from its founder two years ago. “I had attended an inspiring business conference and got the entrepreneurial bug,” said David. “I knew Gary Williams, the founder of WDG, was interested in retiring but wanted the business to go on, and we were able to come to an agreement and step into this very successful business.”
Not long after, the Clarkes were again inspired to introduce an entirely new way of serving their clients. Taking a cue from the virtual gaming world, they are leveraging the latest in three-dimensional modeling software to make their clients’ designs come to life.
“Many firms use 3-D computer-aided design software to create architectural drawings, but we take it even further,” said David Clarke, AIA and the firm’s principal architect. “We hand our clients a pair of 3-D goggles so they can ‘walk into’ their design.”
Rather than looking at a two-dimensional drawing, their clients can now look at their plans as if they’re standing inside the new building itself. “They can look up, down and all around and see all the details – how the walls, floor coverings and furniture will look, how the light fixtures they chose will illuminate a room, and how sunlight will actually show through the windows,” said Wendy Clarke, David’s spouse and managing partner.
WDG has used the virtual reality concept to convey designs for several projects including the new Mountain View Medical building, the Las Cruces Amador project and the United Presbyterian Church.
“The first time our clients put on the goggles and are immersed in the design, they’re almost shocked by the effect,” Wendy said. “Amazement is the best way to describe their reaction.”
Wow factor aside, the Clarkes have extended virtual reality into their design workflow because of the other important benefits it brings to their clients. “Helping clients visualize their design in a ‘real world’ way enables them to verify that it’s what they expected to see and if not, make any necessary changes while we’re still in the design phase of the work,” said David Clarke.
The software makes it much faster and easier to make changes in real-time, such as adding windows or moving walls in real time and have them render across all the various design plans so that they are not accidentally missed. “That means that our clients no longer wait for revised drawings,” he said. “We can be viewing the model in 3-D in our conference room and making changes as we discuss them.”
This approach, he added, is a huge time and money saver for clients. It also prevents errors and eliminates the need for expensive change orders that take place during construction. The results have been so positive that they have now use virtual reality in every project.
The software has increased the firm’s capacity to take on larger scale projects with existing resources. WDG’s portfolio includes commercial, residential, hospitality, recreation, renovation and institutional projects in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
Although the Clarkes feel they’ve touched the tip of the iceberg with virtual reality, David is already at work expanding their capabilities to include full-blown virtual walk-throughs of the building. He’s waiting for computer hardware and the software to advance a little more before he launches it to clients.
The Clarkes, who moved to Las Cruces in 2009, bring more than 30 years of architectural and interior design experience to their firm. Entrepreneurs at heart, they’ve each run their own businesses but have found the greatest enjoyment and success by working together. Wendy, an interior designer, also oversees the administration, HR and marketing functions, freeing David up to focus on architectural design.
They are unabashed Las Cruces fans. When not at work, the Clarkes are active in the community, serving on the board of the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership and participating in the Rotary, the Las Cruces Symphony, and many local festivals.
“We love everything about being here – the people, the mountains and the weather,” said Wendy, “and most of all, the sincere kindness we find here on a daily basis.”
Paula Heikell is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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