You’ve chosen your favorite floor plan for your new home, but it’s hard to visualize what it really will be like once it’s built. If only you could walk through a similar house before giving the builder your go-ahead.
That’s the idea behind Walkable Plans, a new venture started by Ron Lyndon. The floor plan projection facility at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills is designed to take away some of the stress of building or renovating a home by showing buyers true sizes and distances in the design.
Lyndon, of Cranberry, based his company on an idea he saw on “Shark Tank Australia” — called Lifesize Plans — and believes it’s a first-of-its kind facility in the U.S.
“A lot of people struggle with seeing a design on paper, or on a computer, and understanding the size and space. Our facility allows them to experience it in exact size, including real furniture and walls,” he says.
The floor plan projection facility displays life-sized architectural drawings onto the floor, in scale, so that an architect or builder can walk clients through and allow them to experience their future space. It’s not virtual reality or a 3D model, Lyndon says, but a projected image of the floor plan onto the floor.
Lyndon chose the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills because of its central location and high ceilings to accommodate the projectors.
“Most of what we looked at was industrial buildings, but those aren’t very aesthetically pleasing, and most are not air-conditioned,” he says.
It costs $1,200 for an hour’s tour — enough time for someone to get through a standard two-story house, he says. A second hour is $800, sold in 15-minute increments so that people pay for only what they need.
“For large commercial projects, we also have half-day and full-day rentals for $3,000 and $5,000,” says Lyndon. “I am also looking at a subscription model, where a builder or architect who uses the facility regularly would basically have an annual membership and would receive hours each month to use as needed.”
Behind the scenes, it’s technically difficult to display concepts, he acknowledges, but easy for clients to understand. Lyndon always had an interest in architecture and in computers but isn’t a software developer.
“I did a lot of research, and a lot of trial and error, and a little bit of collaboration” to put the facility together, he says. “I don’t want to give away the secret, but there’s a lot of work to get it to work, a combination of hardware and software. It’s fairly technically challenging.”
The facility uses four projectors that are networked together to create one giant image — 48 by 70 feet, or more than 3,300 square feet. Walkable Plans needs a PDF of the drawings a few days before the appointment. “It’s all set up when you arrive,” Lyndon says.
Lyndon considers Walkable Plans to be the “missing step in the design process.” It’s crucial to decide on a final floor plan before building since it can be expensive to make changes after construction begins. The facility uses real furniture and portable walls so that people can understand dimensions and decide upon details.
For commercial builders, using the facility can “compress weeks or months of emails and conference calls into a live design review,” according to the company website. Designers can “connect to our system and make live changes and get instant client buy-in.”
The technology has applications beyond residential and commercial building — including landscapes and hardscapes, retail, hospitality, manufacturing, office space and medical facilities. It could also be applied to entertainment complexes, control rooms, public transportation and city planning projects.
Lyndon and his wife Kira also own a staffing company called Trylak Technologies, and a tumbling gym for kids. Lyndon, whose career has been in sales and recruiting, is operating Walkable Plans with the help of his daughter.
“The Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show was supposed to be our official opening. We had several booths and halfway through, the show closed and then the malls all closed,” he said. “We were pretty well shut down and not able to enter the facility until two weeks ago when Pittsburgh went green. It was very frustrating. We had all this momentum from people we had met at the home show.”
Since then, Lyndon has reached out to custom builders, architects and real estate agents, offering them tours so that “they’ll understand how it works and use it for their clients.”
To learn more, watch the video on the Walkable Plans website.