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Last edited 09 Jan 2018
Computer generated imagery (CGI)
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is a very broad term that refers to processes involving the use of computer software to create images.
CGI technology has a wide range of uses in the construction industry. Increasingly, architects and other designers, such as interior designers, use CGI to help explore design ideas and to facilitate discussions with clients, contractors and other stakeholders.
Proponents of CGI claim that its many applications can help to inform and refine the design, consultation and construction process, as well as driving efficiency, improving safety and helping to maximise profits.
The emergence of CGI as a project tool has been facilitated by the development of computer aided design (CAD) software and building information modelling (BIM) software that mean much of the information needed to generate CGI on a project has already been created for other purposes.
Until relatively recently, CGI was used predominately to create photo-realistic images of buildings before they had been completed on site. Subsequently real photographs would be taken of the completed building. However, its level of sophistication means that it can now be difficult to distinguish between CGI and photography. Indeed, in an interview with Designing Buildings Wiki, the architectural photographer Paul Grundy explained the challenges faced by traditional photographers of buildings who are increasingly commissioned by architects to replicate CGI renderings photographically.
During the design stage, 3D architectural renderings can be used to illustrate to clients what the project will look like. This can take the form of still 'photographic' images, interactive images which the clients can interrogate, or architectural animations. The aim is to help stakeholders who may not be experienced at interpreting 2D drawings, to develop an understanding of how the project will look, feel and relate to the surrounding environment.
Precisely-scaled images, photo-real 3D images, and the use of virtual reality to perform ‘walk-throughs’, also help designers themselves to understand the implications of certain solutions or choices; such as how natural light appear at different times of the day, or whether a space will feel too confined.
As part of the construction process, project teams can use CGI technology to create a virtual construction model of the development that assists, through the use of augmented reality (AR), with project planning and and foreseeing potential problems, safety issues, logistical strategies and so on. The technology can help streamline the overall design and building process and helps with the controlling of costs.
CGI technology is commonly used to provide a virtual representation of a development as part of the marketing strategy. CGI images and animations are often used as a means of advertising, such as on the hoardings around the perimeter of the site, or as part of online videos and brochures. If parts of the project are available commercially, such as a residential or retail space, these animations are often an important aspect of communicating with interested parties.
This is a role which might previously have been performed by physical scale models, or artists impressions.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Architectural photography.
- Augmented reality in construction.
- Big data.
- Building information modelling BIM.
- Computer aided design CAD.
- Concept design.
- Construction innovation.
- Immersive Hybrid Reality IHR.
- Mixed reality.
- Photographing buildings.
- Samples and mock-ups.
- Virtual construction model.
- Virtual reality and manufacturing.
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