Virtual Collaborative Design Environment: Information structure and interfaces

Abstract: The failure to identify design issues in early phases of construction projects has been identified as a significant cause of costly rework, as these issues can impact the building occupants’ abilities to efficiently perform their daily work tasks. Therefore, it is crucial to consider their feedback when design reviewing. To date, efforts have been made to involve building occupants via a variety of user-interfaces that provide different understandings of the project. One such example is Virtual Reality (VR), which increases building occupants’ spatial understanding. Another, is use of design guidelines, intended to support both end-users such as building occupants and also the design team in basing their decision-making on best-practice and ensuring compliance with design requirements. When used together, these different user-interfaces can complement each other by enabling, for instance, visualization of the furniture layout depicted in design guideline documents. However, few studies have identified what is required of a design tool capable of supporting both visualization of design and design-compliance via different user-interfaces. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to advance the understanding of end-users’ involvement in virtual collaborative environments in the building design process. Accordingly, Design Science Research was applied with a two-fold purpose. First, to identify different stakeholders’ challenges that are faced in the design process and specifically how building occupants’ daily work tasks are considered in the design process. Secondly, the research methods such as workshops, semi-structured interviews and documentation analysis helped identify the requirements of a design tool that would enable this knowledge to be transferred and accessible at a cross-project level. The results show that the information structure and user-interface of design guidelines determine to a large degree how effectively compliance with requirements can be validated. An example is the absence of user-interfaces in design guidelines which prevents building occupants from gaining sufficient spatial understanding. This lack of spatial understanding results in them to being reliant on other project members, such as architects and facility planners, for providing input on the design. Moreover, the results show how cross-project knowledge is difficult to facilitate due to how design guidelines have not been created in relation to today’s digital design process. Therefore, this thesis bridges the concepts of integrating design guidelines and VR in the same design tool.