Learn how House by Urban Splash is revolutionizing the home-buying experience in the United Kingdom with its Unity and Furioos-based configurator.
House by Urban Splash is a U.K.-based housebuilder that offers modern homes that are sustainable, adaptable, and configurable. With a housing shortage ensuing across the U.K., House by Urban Splash sought to reimagine the home-buying experience through modular construction. Not only would this speed up completion times and reduce waste, but it would provide buyers with more choices and control in the design of their home.
To support this venture, they partnered with Somewhere, a creative agency specializing in immersive experiences for properties and places, alongside digital agency Tokyo Digital and brand agency Smiling Wolf to develop the House configurator, powered by Unity and Furioos.
Housing is in short supply in the U.K. and across Europe. The lead time to build a traditional house is long and too reliant on external factors such as inclement weather and supplier issues. Homes have been built following the same basic model in the U.K. for several decades – two-up two-down, with short ceilings and small windows.
It’s forecasted that, over the next decade, 20% of the homes built in the UK will be modular-based. The modular homes created by House by Urban Splash are built in a factory-controlled environment. From the order being placed to the house being delivered onsite can take as little as four to six weeks in optimal conditions. Modular homes leverage sustainable modern construction methods, are more environmentally friendly, and produce up to 90% less waste than traditional homes.
At the forefront of modular home construction, House by Urban Splash is the first home builder to offer a virtual home configurator at scale. With House, buyers can use the online 3D interface to view a detailed, 360-degree visualization of a home and customize it to their individual needs — selecting from various floor plans, features, finishes, and layout options. Each time a selection is made, the virtual space is updated in real-time, giving buyers a mock-up of what their home will look like.
When developing the configurator, Somewhere and House by Urban Splash knew it needed to be easy for home buyers to navigate and be able to run on any device. It would require an expandable platform that could support web streaming while also allowing for future development and integration with existing sales and management systems.
“We settled on Unity because it gives us the flexibility to easily integrate with other systems, has the ability to cloud stream with Furioos, and is able to scale and add realistic details without taking a performance hit,” says Rob Deja, Immersive Lead at Somewhere.
House by Urban Splash turned to Unity because the initial WebGL prototype couldn’t replicate authentic materials, lighting, or other realistic housing components in a real-time virtual environment. Unity’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) elevated the experience and delivered the high-end look and feel that Urban Splash was seeking. Moving the interface to the Furioos streaming platform allowed the team to take full advantage of the accessibility a web user interface (UI) offers.
“Achieving quality to match our existing offline renders in real-time is a challenge,” says Deja. “But given that we wanted to run it online in the browser then the Unity and Furioos combination allowed us to do that at higher quality and flexibility than could otherwise be achieved through a browser.”
House by Urban Splash has particular sites where homes are sold and configured on a plot-by-plot basis. Users come to the website and look at specific developments, projects, or neighborhoods. With the Google Maps API, they get a top-down view of what plots are available and can click on individual points on the map to pick specific homes.
“One of the most important pieces for us was the user experience as a whole. We were building something that didn’t exist, so we were trailblazers in that regard,” Jason Byrne, Head of Digital at Urban Splash. “We wanted to help our customer base understand the technicality of what we’re building. Things like load times are really important. Users don’t want to sit there and wait three to four minutes for something to load.”
Once the user picks a plot, the house configurator launches and presents a model. The model defaults to a traditional home, so either two or three stories depending on the plot. They can choose different floor plans from there, such as what floor the kitchen is on, whether they need a home office, and how many bedrooms they want. The model rotates within the app, and you can isolate individual floors to change the configuration, turn the furniture on and off, and pick the flooring type.
By interacting with a 3D model instead of still images or architectural drawings, buyers can understand the configuration of spaces and objects. Once everything is configured, they can send it to their sales contact, who can put the design into production. Completing the configuration online and interactively simplifies the entire design process and reduces manual steps.
With over 1,000 users each month using the 3D configurator, House by Urban Splash is setting itself apart as a market leader and innovator among home builders, offering the first virtual solution of this nature and scale.
“It’s been quite successful from a marketing point of view. People are using it and talking about it,” says Byrne. “If we have 10–15% of our web traffic actually using this application and we get even just a fraction of those going through to buy a house because of it, then commercially it will be a massive success.”
Looking to build your own property configurator or a real-time 3D configurator of any product? Check out Unity Forma.