Microsoft Unveils Minecraft Model of New Campus

The hot new BIM tool Is… Minecraft?

Minecraft character Steve explores the build of Microsoft’s upcoming campus. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

Minecraft character Steve explores the build of Microsoft’s upcoming campus. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

Minecraft is widely popular for its open-ended structure, allowing players to mine, build, fight baddies or explore to their heart’s content. That structure has made it a surprisingly popular choice for modeling real-life buildings, including Microsoft’s new digital version of its upcoming campus.

Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wa., covers 500 acres of land and includes over 100 buildings. The campus is undergoing a renovation, slated to be finished in 2022, that will see 18 new buildings, several new sports fields and retail shops. During the design process, Riku Pentikainen, former Microsoft director of global workplace strategies for its real estate and facilities group, was inspired by watching his son play Minecraft, especially how simple and intuitive it was to create builds and walkthroughs.

Microsoft worked with Blockworks, a company that uses Minecraft to model real buildings, to create a digital version of the new campus that employees could walk through and familiarize themselves with.

While Minecraft is less accurate and naturalistic than other CAD and BIM applications, it lets players move easily and somewhat naturally through buildings, as well as make buildings quickly and without advanced training.

“When you build in Minecraft, you build everything in the perspective of the player, constantly being aware of the sense of scale,” James Delaney, Blockworks managing director, told CNBC. “Traditional CAD tools don’t allow for that sense of awareness.”

This isn’t the first big building project Microsoft has done with Minecraft, which it acquired in 2014 for $2.5 billion. Earlier this year, it partnered with Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to develop a complete model of the hospital. The model was created so kids and parents could tour the hospital beforehand, allowing them to alleviate potential anxiety about visiting the hospital and develop a knowledge of the floorplan. The hospital model includes elevator buttons made with the in-game power source “redstone,” which lets people teleport from floor to floor. The project was part of Minecraft’s Education Edition, an initiative to help educators use Minecraft.

Anyone with a 365 Education subscription can take a tour around the Microsoft digital campus. Though, Microsoft said its far from finished with the model. Going forward, it plans to include details like more realistic building interiors and people strolling through the campus.  

“We’re trying to be very, very selective in how we’re going to do updates,” said Andrew Yang, project manager. “We want to make sure the next update is going to be meaningful and isn’t going to be updated too quickly.”