This paper presents the results from an academic-industry partnership where a team of university researchers and architecture, engineering, and construction industry (AEC) professionals compared a physical mockup to an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment. The goals of this research were to understand how and in what ways VR can replace the use of physical mockups. The study included an experiment where two groups of AEC professionals reviewed a physical mockup and a VR mockup of the same hotel room layout. Group members were asked first to evaluate each mockup from the owner's standpoint as hotel guests and housekeepers, and then suggest design changes based on their professional expertise individually. The groups were then asked to discuss the design together and make a team decision. At the end of the experiment, participants reflected on how the VR mockup did or did not meet their needs in reviewing the room design. The findings from this study show that VR cannot yet fully replace physical mockups due to the user dimension perception, lack of touch sense, unrealistic simulation in VR, and the need for physical samples. However, participants reported VR could be a cost-efficient tool to look at design options and layout in the early design phase and get feedback from the project team and end-users before the construction of the physical mockup to save potential time and money in rework. They also suggested using VR for visualization of the conflicts between different building systems in 3D coordination process.
Keywords: Immersive virtual reality, physical mockup, design review, dimension perception, 6DOF HMD, collaboration.