If you’ve ever built a house, you’ll recognise that moment when you peer into the bathroom and think, “The window should have been 20 centimetres to the left. And that cupboard is way too small.”
It’s frustrating for both the home owner and builder. And it can be costly; seemingly simple alterations can add tens of thousands of dollars to a $500,000 build and result in signifificant delays.
It was a problem that plagued builder Chris Ghaleb, of Lifesize Plans, who raised the issue with colleague Patrick Azzi. There had to be a better way.
What if clients could walk through the design and make any changes before work began, saving time, arguments and cost? It could offer a competitive edge for Ghaleb’s NSW building business, too.
Ghaleb started working on an idea that would allow house plans to be projected and clients to walk through them. Over two years, he and Azzi prototyped the idea, iterated and enhanced the software and scaled and adjusted the solution before they were finally ready to hire warehouse space, construct walls on wheels, mount a dozen projectors and open for business.
Today, people take a walk through their virtual home and are able to make adjustments before it becomes a costly and frustrating business. “We even put in furniture so they can sit on the couch in their new living room,” says Azzi.
More than 1000 people have used the service since it launched in early 2017. Azzi says that every one of them has made some adjustment and a handful have totally changed their plans – before a single brick has been laid. The service has also been used to check out restaurant and shop fit-outs ahead of builds.
Other builders and landscape architects are now signing up to use Lifesize Plans, too. “Builders love it,” says Azzi. “The alternative is that people come and view the house after the build has begun and they ask, ‘Can you change this?’ That’s where the arguments, the costs and the delays start.”
Ghaleb continues to build houses but he and Azzi are determined to grow Lifesize Plans in its own right. They want to license the platform in other states and have applied for patents for international expansion.
The next step is to integrate augmented reality technology, allowing people to walk through their house plans and test various options. That’s on the cards for this year but already Lifesize Plans is transforming the client-builder relationship. As Azzi says, “People think builders love variations because they can charge more. They don’t. They want to build something, make you happy and move on.”