"Doom"-Inspired Software Revolutionizes Modular Construction

The classic nineties video game was the starting point for DIRTT’s ICE software.

The classic nineties video game was the starting point for DIRTT’s ICE software.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As we reported in February, DIRTT is changing the modular construction industry with its patented ICE technology, an innovative design tool which creates instant interactive walkthroughs of architectural interiors. ICE’s software was, rather remarkably, based on the video game Doom—a fascinating tidbit recently picked up on by several tech blogs. The connection seems too improbable to be true. How, after all, did a construction company with an expertise in hospital and workplace design draw inspiration from a vintage computer game with a 32-bit CPU and an apocalyptic storyline?

“If you think about Doom, it was very compelling at the time,” says Mark Greffen, a member of DIRTT‘s executive team. “It was not realistic—you could tell it wasn’t real. But it was telling and it conveyed an idea about a room.” When Barrie Loberg, Mogens Smed, and Geoff Gosling founded DIRTT (short for Doing It Right This Time), they asked themselves how they could implement the same spatial ideas that made Doom work.

“They really looked at flipping the idea on its head and using the graphics to convey the robust data and business models that drives our business rather than using the graphics as a foundation to add that information,” Greffen says. “Graphics are really there for understanding and driving home the information.”

The Ogier offices in the British Virgin Islands were designed using DIRTT’s ICE software.

Courtesy Dougal Thorton Creative

The ICE software uses this graphic technology—modeled on Doom’s original, now open-source engine—to instantly generate interactive, annotated 3-D renderings from 2-D floor plans. Clients can sit down with sales representatives and see in real time how a room or different configurations of rooms will look and feel. They can then make changes to the plans based upon the results they see. These iterative design decisions extend from the exterior finishes of a space to its underlying mechanisms, such as piping and electric wiring. The software automatically crunches the data, adjusting dimensions and wall thicknesses, as well as prices, lead times, and any potential build-out problems.

The result is the flattening of the entire construction process. ICE continues to evolve, says its makers, and piggybacking on the video game industry means unlimited potential. “Video games are a huge industry,” says Greffen. “And the hardware that is being delivered with computers is there to support that industry.”

Read more about DIRTT and ICE here.

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