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Title: The use of immersive virtual reality technology in the design process : a reflective practice approach
Author: Maftei, Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 8864
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2015
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The combination of increasing awareness and use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) as a set of collaborative processes and developments in the availability and range of visualisation technologies accessible to practitioners is enabling new ways of performing design and construction activities. However, whilst technological promise and possibility is growing, research is only just beginning to emerge which examines the actual impact of these changes on the practices of design, or which explores how professional competencies are being affected or re-configured through engagement with these new technologies and approaches. This PhD is concerned with issues of understanding and reflecting on the effect of immersive technologies on construction design activities as used in concrete 'real-life' settings and as perceived by the practitioners involved. The setting being studied is the design of a new hospital in the UK with all patient accommodation as single rooms. There are particular client requirements around the size of the rooms, and the visibility of patients from nursing stations. Models of the single rooms were imported from CAD models into a CAVE (CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment) - a full scale 3D immersive environment- set up in a UK University lab. Over six sessions, the design teams used the CAVE to review the design against the client requirements. The study uses Schön's concepts of reflective practice and video-based methods to analyse the ways design teams approach and employ this full scale 3D immersive environment in collaborative design work. The analysis describes four themes relating to reflective practice occurring in the setting: orienting to the CAVE technology itself, orienting to the representation of the specific design within the CAVE, activities accounting for, or exploring alternatives within the design for the use and users of the space, and more strategic interactions around how to best represent the design and model to the client within the CAVE setting. The analysis also reveals some unique aspects of design work in this environment. Perhaps most significantly, rather than enhancing or adding to an existing understanding of design through paper based or non-immersive digital representations, it is often acting to challenge or surprise the participants as they experience the immersive, full scale version of their own design. Overall, the findings of the study demonstrate the relevance of mobilising Schön's approach to design as situated, social, and material practice, and the more specific concepts of reflective practice -surprise, repertoires, appreciations, reflection-in and -on action, feel for the situation- as an insightful way of inquiring the use of the CAVE in performing design work. The study brings new insights to a Schönian approach to understanding design practice by accounting for, and analysing in detail the non-verbal interaction through bringing together a Schönian approach on design as reflective practice and a video-based studies approach as method for inquiry. It also recognises the tension indicated by the literature around Schön's work with regard to understanding the process as linear or circular, and addresses the debate from the perspective drawn on the empirical data. Also, the study enhances the existing understanding around the practical consequences of using CAVE's in design, and informing the development of the technology from the practice perspective. Distinctively, these contributions draw on a research approach focussing on the role of the CAVE technology in use in real-life practice, differently than the prevailing work in the existing usability testing and technology development literature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: building information modelling ; design practice ; hospital ; reflective practice ; visualisation