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Special Effects For Your Architectural Model

What special effects will enhance your model?
We add lighting to many of our models but that is only one way to enhance your clients’ experience. We have also created motorized components and sound effects along with interactive touch screens. These special effects add a completely new dimension to your presentation that your development may well benefit from.

  • ●  We built the interior of a McDonalds with actual spinning gears and fans complete until we made the gears and fans spin.
  • ●  We designed an interactive model for the visitor’s bureau at Lake Tahoe. Two touchscreen computers activated dozens of LED lights on the model. The screens gave specific information on hotels, casinos, golf courses, museums and other points of interest.

● We produced a lighting display for a residential tower in which the salesperson could shine a laser on a unit which would then light up. At the same time, the big screen behind the model showed the floor plan, price point and the precise view from out of the windows.

Programming interactive features have gotten easier recently and are now only limited by the imagination. The cost/benefit of interactive features is also easy to calculate. Do you need a sales person to talk to every visitor in your office? The model can act as a self-guided tour freeing up your staff to talk to the buyers with the most potential for closing. Get your important information across in an entertaining way and your model will pay for itself more quickly.

Are Completed Drawings Required For An Architectural Model?

The answer to a very common question is NO, you do not have to have completed drawings for us to bid your project. In fact, it is always best to get your model maker involved as early as possible, even in the initial drawing phase of the design. With early involvement, you can get cost estimates to put into your budget and be able to schedule the entire project with completion dates for the plans and the model. It is always helpful to secure a timeframe for your work so that there are no delays in delivery. We have extensive experience and have most likely already built similar projects to the one you are proposing. Cost estimates are often based on extensive past experiences.

When plans are complete, please understand that any changes can have a significant impact on the model itself. We take plans very literally and try not to deviate at all from what we see. The designer is the artist and our job as craftsmen is to fully realize the designer’s vision. If we can see it in the drawings we can build it. Conversely, if the building has an area that the drawings do not show clearly, we will need to ensure we have open communication and come to a consensus. There are always a few clarifications needed between the design and the client We are both working to create a great sales tool and in this phase of the construction everyone needs to communicate clearly.

Special details are also important for your model maker to see. Things like bench details or wrought iron fencing can add beautiful elements to the model so being able to see these types of details in drawings or reference photos is crucial.

Colors are always a challenge to properly match. We can only accept colors as physical samples or color system numbers that we can get samples for. If color chips don’t tell the whole story such as in a variegated stone pattern, a photograph is acceptable as long as it is printed on a piece of paper, approved by the designer and physically mailed to us. Colors CANNOT be sent as email attachments since we mix our colors very precisely and computer monitors and
printers are notorious for altering shade and tone.

We take coloration very seriously. To get final approvals, we will construct a small colored wall section to send to our clients for approvals. This is the moment of final approvals for textures and colors before they are applied to the entire model.

Determining The Best Scale For Your Architectural Model

What scale is best for your model?  We now know the area of your model and size that you want it to be. The scale is now easily calculated. Below is a guide to typical scales and the types of sales models that are best shown in each. If you are selling interiors, you are going to need a larger scaled model to show the details. Master plan models can be built in smaller scales to show more property in a smaller size.

Different scales are used to sell different aspects of your development. A master plan can be on a small scale like 1″=100′ to sell properties and community.

1″ = 100′ (Size 6′ x 7′)

Land Development Design Model


1″ = 8′ scale (Size 4′ x 5′)

Used to show individual units, interior detail or detailed sections of a building. We build whole buildings in 1″ = 4′ scale but the size is large and they are usually built for a showroom setting.

Resort Construction Model


1″ = 4′ scale or larger (Size 4′ x 2′)

Interior Architectural Model

The model is a very personal and interactive sales tool. It immediately demonstrates a commitment to the project and the professionalism of your company.

This is the most popular scale for exterior detailed architectural models. It is easy to see most textures and other subtle details in this scale. Colorful people and cars are available from the hobby industry and most of the models are a good size for showroom display.

If you still want well-detailed exteriors but you have a larger site with multiple buildings. 1″=16′ scale might work well for your project.

1″ = 16′ scale (Size 5′ x 5′)

Beach Resort Architectural Model

Another reason this is a commonly used scale is again the hobby industry has ready-made cars and people that can populate the model.

If your focus is on the immediate site surrounding your larger development. 1″=20′ may be the best scale.

1″ = 20′ (Size 4′ x 4′)

Hotel Design Model

We can still show textures on the buildings but they are getting smaller and less easy to notice. This scale is still good for colorful (though small) people and cars.

Typically, the focus is more on the site and a little less on the buildings in this scale. 1″ = 30′ is too small to show people so cars are the only items used to give a sense of activity.

1″ = 30′ (Size 5′ x 6′)

Resort Development Model

Landscaping and water features are often as much of a focus as buildings in this scale.

1” = 50’ scales are good for showing a larger master plan designs. Building again is usually (but not always) shown as mass models. This has been a good scale to show entire golf course layouts, complex highway interchanges, and phases of master plan developments.

Scale 1″ = 50′ (Size 6′ x 7′)

City Architectural Model

Buildings are often shown as mass models when they get this small but as you can see in the image windows, doors and colors still show up well. 3D Landscaping is more limited, mostly trees, grasses, and forests although we use a lot of colors to represent different ecological zones.

1” = 300’ / 400’ / 500’ scales are mostly used to show detailed topography over a large area of land. The building can still be seen but they are little more than extruded footprints. We have used a much smaller scale on models done for the National Park Service of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons these are done with some vertical exaggeration.

1″ = 500′ and smaller (Size 4’x 5′)

Topography Scale Model


Architectural Model Uses

What is your model going to be used for?  Knowing the use of the model helps us visualize the final product while we are discussing the details. Often, the simpler models will get the needed points across without every detail displayed, and at a much lower cost. We need to know who the audience and what they are looking for.

Mass Models
One great example of the use of a mass model is for a design review board meeting. Perhaps all they are interested in the relative heights of the surrounding structures. This is something that is very hard to convincingly convey in an animation or rendering. A model showing nothing but the building masses will instantly demonstrate the issues and allow the right questions to be asked. Mass models are also used for internal design reviews and study. Going over a project with a client during the design process can be challenging if your client has trouble visualizing based on drawings. A quick and relatively inexpensive model can save valuable time and instantly resolve any elements that are in question.

It is a completely different story when bringing a model before the public. When you have an audience that is looking buy, it is good to show every element that can help sell your concept. At that point, a DETAILED MODEL is what you may need.

Detailed Models
The public can be very literal. When they see a model the brain sometimes translates it into a very small reality.

Any questionable elements become issues. A detailed or “realistic” model shows every design element and color in an accurate fashion. When selling to the public, you can never know what elements will close the deal. Perhaps it is the location of the swimming pool or the view from the balcony or access to retail space. Including all of the important marketing highlights of the model is essential to successful sales.

There is room in-between these two extremes. With careful planning, we can work with you to create what we call a Semi-Detailed model.

Semi-Detailed Models
Often the premium sales tools are desired but the budget just isn’t there to afford that kind of work. We often bida project as a full detailed model only to find out that we need to make compromises to hit the numbers. Your model maker can guide you to areas that can be simplified without completely losing the character of the model. Perhaps instead of clear reflective windows, we make them from a grey opaque material saving us a layer of information. Perhaps the textures of the brick or siding are not as critical as the color, eliminating another layer and saving us more time in construction. These choices must be carefully selected and written out specifically in the bid so that everyone is on the same page and understands what the finished product will look like.

2. What size will your model be?
Don’t worry about the scale of the model at this point, just think about the size. Points to consider when picking a size include: Where is the model going to live? Will it be in the same place for the entire sales cycle or will it be moved? Will your audience come to the model or do you have to bring the model to a trade show or boardroom for the presentations?

Answering these questions will help to put an overall size on the physical model and determine the type of case needed for shipping and presentations.

Some models, like this one that we did for the Presidio in San Francisco, needed to be large for a showroom but sections of the development also needed to be taken to individual meetings. The solution was a four-part model with each section shipped in easy-to-handle, rolling cases that are light enough to be taken to meetings. After the meeting, the section could be reassembled and locked together. If the model is being displayed in a showroom or trade show, a heavy wooden case with pallet skids is more appropriate for safe travel. We have also built models that fit in a small suitcase-sized case to be carried onto an airplane for safe travel around the country.

The Value of An Architectural Model

Models are still the most powerful sales and educational tool available.

They interact with the human mind in a way that no other medium can replicate. Your project becomes interesting and exciting just by having an intriguing, smaller version of it available. This is not to downplay computer renderings and animations. These are important marketing tools that can be sent far and wide in an instant.

The model requires space and an audience which must be in the same room to get the full visceral effect. Your model might be viewed in a showroom or appropriately sized to take to meetings and events. The model becomes a more personal and interactive sales tool. It immediately demonstrates a commitment to the project and the professionalism of your company.

If you want to connect personally with your clients there is no better tool to clearly demonstrate your project than a physical model. The following questions should be very useful in framing the project and ensuring the end result is exactly what you envisioned.

Scale Models for Trade Shows – Oldcastle Water Drainage System

This model is created to demonstrate a new water drainage system. As the water flows through the pipe, vortexes are created which allow waste materials and trash to be collected at the bottom. This is a fairly complex system so LED lighting was installed to trace the water flow through the pipes. Buttons on the back allowed salesmen to guide their clients through and interesting water flow demonstration. This model draws attention to the booth and provides an attractive demonstration at all their trade shows. The model is large enough so that salesmen can point out all the features and demonstrate the ease of collecting gravel or garbage and cleaning out the system.

Let's Build Something

Let one of our talented model makers discuss your project with you.
You don’t need to have your plans finalized. We pride ourselves in
being able to work with the customer from start to finish in the
design and build process.
3000 Airport Drive Erie Colorado Unit 201A 80516
+1 (303) 449-0878