ITcon Vol. 28, pg. 539-554,

ENERGYSIM: techniques for advancing building energy education through immersive virtual reality (VR) simulation

submitted:April 2023
revised:August 2023
published:September 2023
editor(s):Chansik Park, Nashwan Dawood, Farzad Pour Rahimian, Akeem Pedro
authors:Hassan Anifowose, Ph.D.
Department of Construction Science, Texas A&M University

Kifah Alhazzaa, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University
Department of Architecture, Qassim University, Qassim 52571, Saudi Arabia

Manish Dixit, Associate Professor
Department of Construction Science, Texas A&M University
summary:An important practice for reducing the effects of global warming is the design and construction of energy-efficient buildings. In design education, the full comprehension of thermal behavior in buildings based on their geometry and material composition is required. The complexity of energy simulation principles, vis-a-vis the number of elements that impact the energy loads, their linkages, and their relationships to one another all combine to make this a challenging subject to absorb. Virtual Reality (VR) provides an immersive way to learn the concepts of building energy responses; however, the development of VR applications for education is difficult due to the knowledge, skill, and performance resource-related gaps. Unoptimized VR applications can adversely impact learning if user experiences are broken due to performance lags. This research, therefore, explores VR as a teaching tool for building energy education while showcasing the development process toward a visually accurate simulation and performant application. We developed EnergySIM; a multi-user VR building energy simulation prototype of the famous Farnsworth House. Using this prototype, we document rigorously tested development workflows for improved VR game performance, high visual fidelity, and user interaction, the three key factors which positively contribute to user knowledge retention. The study combines menu-driven interaction, virtual exploration, and miniature model manipulation approaches with the aim of testing user understanding and knowledge retention. Highlighted results provide reduced barriers of entry for educators towards developing higher quality educational VR applications. EnergySIM showcases pre-simulated building exterior surface heatmaps response from four seasons (winter, summer, fall, and spring) alongside an all-year-round sun-hour scenario. Four different material pre-simulated scenarios (single glazing, double glazing, concrete, and wood) for interior atmospheric temperature mapping are also explored. Preferred interaction methods are documented by allowing users’ visual appraisal of alternative building materials based on insulation capacity or resistance to heat flow (R-value). The significance of this work lies in its potential to revolutionize how students, designers, and instructors approach building energy education in today’s world. EnergySIM provides a hands-on and visually engaging learning experience towards the enhancement of knowledge retention and understanding. It pushes the boundaries of development for visual fidelity using geometry/mesh modeling input from various software into game engines and optimizing game performance using the HTC Vive Pro Eye and Meta Quest Pro headsets.
keywords:Virtual Reality, Design Education, Building Energy, Simulation, Visualization, Energy Efficiency
full text: (PDF file, 1.254 MB)
citation:Anifowose H, Alhazzaa K, Dixit M (2023). ENERGYSIM: techniques for advancing building energy education through immersive virtual reality (VR) simulation, ITcon Vol. 28, Special issue The future of construction in the context of digital transformation (CONVR 2022), pg. 539-554,