Students Study Architectural Engineering in VR Lab

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2023


A new virtual reality laboratory allows students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) to study architecture and construction engineering through virtual models.

Modeled and programmed by students Andrew Kinder and Melorin Azimzadeh in Dr. Stuart Baur’s lab, a virtual Solar Village can be viewed by users who can move around in the buildings, view structural information about the houses and pass straight through walls to see all the components that go into building “smart” homes.

“With my students’ help, current and prospective students can study buildings thousands of miles away that could be fundamental to their education or research,” said Baur, an associate professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T. “Virtual reality could lead to many educational breakthroughs in our field, and I am excited for our architectural engineering students to pilot this program.”

In addition to the virtual versions of the campus’ solar houses, users can also view a virtual Fallingwater designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The group is reportedly developing more locations to tour as well.

“We are working to develop partnerships with other departments on campus as well,” said Baur. “History students could view far-off locations or buildings in the height of their glory before being destroyed, like Notre Dame in France. The possibilities truly are endless when it comes to advancing students’ educational experience.”

According to the release, the technology is also being utilized to research light use in outdoor settings, such as streetlights. Graduate Stephen Simmons has research participants view an outdoor location on campus at night through the VR goggles, and then shows them different levels and colors of light to gauge feelings of visibility and safety.

“My survey of participants is looking at how lighting demands impact new building construction and its environment,” says Simmons. “And light color impacts more than many realize.

“In the evenings, for example, the redder the light, the better for our bodies and the environment, but visibility is slightly lower than bluer light. These considerations need to be considered when constructing new locations—even the light’s shielding can change perceptions.”

Similar Program

In August of last year, it was reported that a new virtual reality lab for civil engineers at the University of Dayton (UD) is being utilized to “bring buildings to life.”

The Greg and Annie Stevens Intelligent Infrastructure Engineering Lab, located within the School of Engineering's Kettering Labs, will allow students to better understand a building’s placement and operation before construction commences.

According to the university, students will be able to upload blueprints, sensor data and other computer-aided design drawings into the system, which then generates a virtual facility in which users can float up, down, side-to-side, through walls, onto the roof or into the basement, similar to 360-degree theaters or amusement park rides.

The lab is also capable of allowing students to test how environmental conditions might affect a structure. Robert Liang, UD civil and environmental engineering and engineering mechanics department chair, added that the lab could also be used to “change detection,” or compare a structure to what it might have been, to its current existence—such as in the situation of a collapse or other experienced damages.

The new technology will also allow for a safer examination by inspectors who won't have to enter a dangerous building or stand on top of an unstable pile of rubble while rescuers are working.

However, the new lab won’t just be for civil engineers. UD notes in its press release that researchers in artificial intelligence will also work in the lab to help refine techniques to help automate the detection of building defects.

Other students studying human factors and psychology will also be utilizing the lab to examine how people interact with buildings and how to better define a structure’s “user-friendliness.”

UD reports that students are already using the lab to further immerse themselves in the University's Roger Glass Center for the Performing Arts, which was currently under construction at the time. Arts center contractor Messer Construction is also reportedly using the technology.

   

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