How Iray+ builds more accuracy into the architectural design process

Creating a building design that not only looks good but works well within the world around it, is a delicate matter.

Therefore, when it comes to architecture and developing comprehensive, physically-based representations of building designs, accuracy is key.

Even the subtlest changes in material properties and lighting can make a huge difference, as the developers of the so-called ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in London discovered.

Its design wreaked havoc in the capital when the midday summer sun hit its glass exterior and concave shape, creating a ‘death-ray’ solar glare so strong that it melted cars parked beneath.

It was a situation that reinforced the importance of testing changes in lighting and temperature, at every stage of the workflow.

With its four rendering modes, physically-accurate materials and photorealistic features, Iray®+ enables architects and designers to carry out these tests in real-time, and create a photoreal visualisation of how their building will appear and react in its environment.

The real picture, in real-time

From concept to creation, as with any design process, the very nature of architectural design is that feedback impacts on ideas and the building’s specifications may be modified.

Having the ability to make these modifications quickly and see accurately how they change the end result is essential, especially when it comes to making fast decisions and, ultimately, keeping clients satisfied.

Iray+’s range of flexible render modes – three interactive and one photoreal – allow architects and designers to evaluate all aspects of design in a time-efficient and collaborative manner, choosing whichever mode best suits their workflow needs.

Render mode choice, from start to finish

For the initial stages of the design process, when quick feedback is required on design concepts, Interactive Fast Mode allows users to see changes almost instantly, with approximated lighting effects and ray traced materials and navigation enabling you to test the accuracy of your building design from the very start of the workflow.

Interactive Direct Mode then provides additional accuracy, adding in real-world materials and lighting effects to the image, to allow you to make initial design decisions earlier on in the process.

When you’re nearing the final stages of your design, Interactive Preview Mode takes your renders to the next level, creating sophisticated, realistic visualisations that can still be easily changed and amended, using direct lighting, real-world materials and approximated global illumination models.

Throughout each Interactive Mode stage, the ActiveShade window (in Iray for 3ds Max) provides a realistic preview of the final render as you’re still modelling, allowing you to see the results of changes made while you work and, in turn, providing reassurance that what you see, is what you’ll get – something that’s not always possible when using other applications or if your workflow is disjointed.

Iray+’s Photoreal Mode then closes the gap between design and reality, generating physically accurate, fully interactive images and animations that give a true representation of your design in its environment. 

Physically-based lighting

As the Walkie Talkie building’s death-ray situation demonstrates, testing precisely how a building will look and react with the world around it is vital.

Iray+ takes the guesswork away and allows users to accurately predict both the performance and appearance of a design at different times of the day, under different lighting conditions.

By using real-world physically-based and photographic settings, you can add physical sky and image-based lighting to your simulation.

And, without having to move to a system that’s designed specifically for lighting reviews and simulations, users can demonstrate exactly how external lighting affects the scene and, also, how design features that emit or absorb light will affect the building and its environment when completed – all within the existing workflow.

Iray+’s true-to-life materials will interact with the light sources, showing accurately where reflections, glare and shadows will occur.

These materials can be chosen from Iray+’s comprehensive library or built from scratch and adapted using a wide range of base material layers, colours, textures and finishes.

These layers intuitively combine to create true-to-life representations of real-world materials that act and appear the same way they’re manufactured or found in nature, giving you full flexibility over the structure, behaviour and appearance of materials used.

Bringing visualisations to life

Adding animated objects such as people and vehicles to the design scene is an important part of bringing a building’s visualisation to life, allowing audiences – in client pitches for example – to better understand how the design will interact with its environment.

As an unbiased renderer, Iray+ makes this process quicker and easier, producing a physically accurate representation of the animation and avoiding the common issues that can occur when an object’s movement affects the scene’s light calculations.

Iray+ intuitively calculates the natural fluctuations in light that would occur in the real world as the object moves through the scene, such as where shadows are cast according to the positioning of light sources – natural and manmade.

So, when objects are inputted, they can move seamlessly through the visualisation, demonstrating accurately and without error how the building’s lighting levels will react and appear in their presence.

This means that when the final render takes place within the workflow, there’s no need to spend time refining the light calculations and tweaking objects’ positions – it’s all done in one go.

Building reassurance

With its physically-based materials and lighting capabilities, its rendering technology and the multiple render modes, including the Activeshade preview  window, Iray+ saves architects time and, in turn, money when it comes to producing external building designs.

From the initial design concept through to gaining planning permission and signing off the final vision, users can create large, high-quality images that truly represent how the building will look and act within its environment – at any time of the day or night.

Its ability to load new materials quickly and calculate how they’ll work within the building’s setting means users can demonstrate an increased amount of material and design options to both internal and external customers, involving them in every stage the design workflow.

And, changes made during the feedback stage can be made fast, allowing the workflow to keep moving and the project to reach completion sooner.


To find out more about the Iray+ SDK visit 

Or to buy Iray for 3ds Max visit


Iray® is a registered trademark of NVIDIA ARC GmbH used under license from the NVIDIA Corporation.

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