By Emilie Ng
GOLD Coast priest Fr Ken Howell is the first Australian priest to take a virtual tour of a new church.
Fr Howell “walked” through a virtual model of the new church for Burleigh Waters wearing a virtual reality headset powered by technology company Oculus on October 14.
The Burleigh Heads parish priest said taking a tour of his new church, designed by architecture firm Peddle Thorp, was “mindblowing”.
“This is the modern age we live in, and this is where we’re heading,” Fr Howell said.
“Modern technology can help us gain an appreciation of how it all fits together.”
Peddle Thorp designers said viewing 3D models through Oculus headsets was similar to playing first-person video games.
But it was no game for Fr Howell, who said the virtual tour allowed him to have “a real sense of how it was going to feel” inside the new church.
“I like to try and feel what space is like, and sometimes you can think what it might be like, have a thought about what it might be like.
“But then it can turn into something quite different.
“I think this is a great idea.”
Fr Howell said they hoped to get a tender within the next few weeks and announce the winning company by Christmas.
Construction would then begin in January on parish land located adjacent to Marymount primary school.
“This will be the focal church in the Burleigh Heads parish,” Fr Howell said.
Following Fr Howell’s virtual walk, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was given a test of the virtual headset.
Peddle Thorp managing director Peter Gardiner said the Burleigh Waters church designs would be used as “an exemplar project” for a 3D designing method called “building information modelling”.
Mr Gardiner said virtual reality technology was more effective than simply walking a client through a three deminsional model.
Burleigh Waters church is among many projects under Peddle Thorp using BIM technology, which integrates architecture software and gaming engines.
Peddle Thorp design systems specialist Tom de Plater developed the software Fr Howell used to view the new church from a kit purchased off crowd funding website Kickstarter.
Mr de Plater said he had not heard of any Catholic priests taking a virtual tour of a church with the assistance of BIM designs.
Fr Howell expected constructions would be completed well before the end of 2015.
Watch the behind-the-scenes video: