Comparison of Building Design Assessment Behaviors of Novices in Augmented-and Virtual-Reality Environments

Justin F. Hartless, Steven K. Ayer, Jeremi S. London, Wei Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Design and construction professionals must make well-informed decisions for every project that meets both industry standards and building codes and also the specific needs of building users and clients. In order to make effective decisions, research suggests that explicit knowledge, defined as easily codified and communicated information, and tacit knowledge, considered to be the know-how of completing a task, must be effectively applied. While there is recognition of the need for both forms of knowledge, architecture engineering and construction (AEC) education has historically focused on covering content-related explicit knowledge in the classroom. As a result, students generally develop tacit knowledge over their careers. Due to an aging AEC workforce, there is a need to support tacit knowledge development in the classroom to enable students entering the industry to supplement the collective tacit knowledge that will exit the industry as the current generation of practitioners retires. Therefore, the authors of this paper explore the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to provide immersive virtual experiences aimed at replicating the types of scenarios that students might experience in their careers that would require them to apply tacit knowledge. The authors tasked students in construction-related disciplines with assessing a building design and making judgments about how the design should be modified to support an occupant in a wheelchair in both VR and AR. Using two similar models and a counterbalanced research methodology, the authors coded the statements and behaviors of the student participants during this design assessment exercise. The results of this work indicate that both technologies elicited statements that were indicative of explicit knowledge related to the needs of a wheelchair-bound occupant. When AR and VR were found to directly encourage physical exploration in the experience, both led to behaviors that simulated the completion of tasks that might be performed by a wheelchair-bound occupant. These behaviors were frequently followed by comments that were indicative of tacit knowledge. While this type of behavior was observed in both AR and VR, AR seemed to more directly encourage this type of interaction among participants. The contribution of this work is in providing observational evidence to demonstrate how the physical exploration affordances of AR and VR may be able to support experiences that foster the use and development of tacit knowledge related to AEC-related decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number04020002
JournalJournal of Architectural Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Architecture
  • Building and Construction
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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