Foodservice Equipment Reports

Serendipity Strikes Again

I had no idea when I went to my cousins’ house for dinner that I’d come away with an Exclusive. Kate Kerin, my cousin by marriage, is the director of marketing and corporate affairs for Chipman Design Architecture, Des Plaines, Ill. One of Chipman’s specialties is restaurant design, and the firm counts among its clients McDonald’s, Epic Burger, Jason’s Deli, Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Robin, just to name a few.

Catching up over our family meal, Kate told me I should really come by the offices and check out Chipman’s brand new division, Blue Marble 3D. The firm devoted a good portion of its fourth-floor offices to this groundbreaking endeavor: a custom studio for virtual-reality restaurant design. “It’s the only one of its kind in the world,” she told me. 

The team at Blue Marble 3D takes your traditional Revit-based architectural plans and construction documents and creates the prototype virtually in full size and in three dimensions using state-of-the-art hardware and software. When Publisher Robin Ashton and I took our tour with Kate and Blue Marble 3D Principal George Matos, we each took a turn stepping into a 9-sq.-ft. cube, the walls of which, viewed with the naked eye, looked like a fuzzy rendering of a Chick-fil-A restaurant. But then we put on some special 3D eyeglasses, grabbed a controller (it looks like an Xbox controller) and were immersed in a virtual world. We were in the Chick-fil-A.

In your virtual restaurant, any design problems invisible to you on paper or computer screen reveal themselves. Wall heights, equipment positions and sizes, entry and exit locations, window placement, HVAC clearances, décor, furniture, sightlines—you can see and change them all as your plans come to life. 

You can even adjust your lighting. The company uses a complex lighting algorithm that can render light completely realistically. When you change the virtual lighting, shadows, reflections and all light-impacted surfaces change with it. Many clients have increased, decreased or repositioned light fixtures based on what they saw in their virtual units.

The fact that virtual rendering is a fraction of the cost of a full-scale “model” is just the cherry on top. And just think of the savings when you fix construction mistakes before you even break ground. Contributing Editor Allison Rezendes has the full story for you in this month’s issue.

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