Having been a promising visualization tool since 1950s, ironically, virtual reality is not widely used in the architectural
design and evaluation process due to several constrains, such as the high cost of equipments and advanced programming
skills required. This paper described the collaboration between design computing courses and architecture
design studios that have been taught at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2004 and 2005. These courses
explored several practical methods to integrate Low Cost Virtual Reality Aided Design (LC-VRAD) in the architectural
design process. As a summary of the collaboration, this paper refers to three main aspects: (1) How to use game
engine to design an affordable VR system in the ordinary studio environment. (2) How to integrate VR, into the design
process, not only as a visualization tool, but also as a design instrument. (3) How to evaluate different methods of representing
architectural models based on the efficiency of workflow, rendering quality and users' feedback.
Support by the Game and Interactive Design Department at SCAD, students in the School of Building Arts implemented
two Low Cost VRAD methods in various design phases, starting from site analysis, schematic design, design
development to the final presentation. Two popular game engines, Epic Game's Unreal engine and Director MX's
Shockwave engine, were introduced to students to visualize their project in real -time. We discussed computer-aided
design theories including the application of VR, as well as digital computing and human computer interaction. At the
end of each quarter, feedbacks from students and faculties were collected and analyzed. These methods were revised
and improved consistently across 2004 and 2005 academic year.
Keywords : Virtual Reality, Real-Time Visualization, Game Engine .
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