Occupant Comfort in Immersive Virtual Environments

  • Haneen AlAmirah

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis

    Abstract

    Immersive virtual reality (IVR) is a promising technology increasingly applied to various research fields, including building science and occupant comfort research. Using immersive virtual environments (IVEs), researchers could explore important research questions related to how occupants perceive and interact with their indoor environment in response to different environmental stimuli (e.g., visual, thermal, and acoustic). Despite an increasing number of IVE-based comfort studies, the current state of such efforts, their shortcomings, and prospects remain unclear. The general aim of this work is to examine IVEs as an apparatus for research on occupant comfort and adaptive behaviors in buildings. To achieve this goal, this thesis document starts with a comprehensive literature review of IVR tools, concepts, and comfort related IVE experiments. The main gaps and synthesis of the review motivated the second part of this thesis, which is the design of three IVE-based experiments that address specific gaps in existing literature on the topic. The first experiment aims to validate a multi-user IVE, the 'Igloo vision cylinder', which is located on Khalifa University's main campus. The second experiment uses the Igloo to study cross-effect occupant comfort between the three physical environmental domains (i.e., thermal, acoustical, and visual). The third experiment explores potential group comfort effects, which are influences that people sharing an indoor environment (e.g., the Igloo) may have on each other when reporting about their comfort levels. The contributions of this work to the state-of-the-art are important as they first demonstrate that the observed gap between the advances in IVE technology and IVE-based comfort research is mainly attributed to limited research scopes rather than technical limitations. Moreover, through the proposed experiments, this work presents a blueprint for IVE-based experiments that can help answer important questions pertaining to how people perceive their indoor environment, an essential step to improve building design and operation practices.
    Date of AwardDec 2021
    Original languageAmerican English

    Keywords

    • occupant comfort; adaptive behavior; virtual reality (VR); immersive virtual environment (IVE); validation; multi-user IVE.

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