Virtual reality applications in the house-building industry
This study explores the potential for British housing developers to use virtual reality (VR) for the design and evaluation of housing developments. Four research questions were formulated after a review of relevant literature on house-building, VR technology and industrial innovation. These cover the context, technical problems and implementation issues related to VR use in the house-building industry. To address these questions the following tasks were undertaken: firstly a survey of the top 100 British housing developers' use of computer-aided design (CAD) and visualisation software and their attitudes to VR; secondly practical trials of PC-based VR systems for the modelling of housing developments; thirdly a case study of VR implementation in a British house-building company; and fourthly a multiple case study of VR use in Japanese house-building companies. The overall research problem is addressed by recourse to the findings of the different research methods. The use of IT and the house-building organisation, similarities and differences between CAD and VR implementation, and comparison between Japanese and British house-builders VR use are discussed. VR in house-building practice and policy is then considered. A number of general conclusions are drawn from this study. First, that PC-based VR is of use to British housing developers for explaining design intent to non-designers, both within and outside to the organisation. Second, that housing developers' use of virtual reality at the early design stages is hampered by the current state of the technology. Third, that organisational transformation is required for housing developers to implement and obtain maximum benefit from virtual reality. Finally future scenarios are explored to provide the house-building industry and policy makers with information on which to base decisions about how to invest or promote investment in virtual reality.