Facilitating Building Structures Classes through 3D Augmented Reality (AR) Based Models

Amna Salman, MCP, MPA, Justin Miller, MArch, and Salman Azhar, PhD
Auburn University
Auburn, Alabama

The modern information and communication technologies have become an integral part of life for students currently enrolled in the higher education institutes. Engaging these students in the learning process with their preferred learning style is challenging. The differences in teaching and learning styles result in issues such as disengagement of students, loss of learning aptitude, and loss of knowledge retention (Azhar et. al., 2018). Recent innovations in visualization technologies such as Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality could provide opportunities to engage these students in a social, collaborative and active learning environment. Currently at Auburn University, 2D drawings, jobsite photos, and/or field trips are being used to teach architecture and building science students about the design and fabrication complexities of building structures. Experience shows that all students do not fully understand the subject matter through 2D drawings and/or photos. Field trips while valuable are many times hard to plan due to time, safety, and cost limitations. The Augmented Reality (AR) technology allows projecting a full or reduced scale digital 3D model over its 2D counterpart in a real environment. The users can see and manipulate the AR model via a touch screen or hand gestures. Creating and using 3D AR models of different structural assemblies could be an engaging and meaningful experience for architecture and building science students and it can vastly increase their interest in the subject matter.

This pilot project aims to measure improvements in students’ comprehension in building structures using the AR technology. The research design consisted of the following steps: (1) development of three structural assemblies (or test beds) using 3D AR models; (2) testing of 3D AR models by a group of 23 graduate students; and (3) collection of students’ feedback data through an online questionnaire survey.

Results indicate that the majority of students found the AR technology highly effective in improving their understanding and knowledge retention of the subject matter. They indicated that such visualization technologies could be a great supplement to sketches and photos typically used in the structures classes. Though the poster presents results of first pilot study only, the research is in-progress and will be completed in December 2020. Extensive data from multiple structures classes is planned to be collected in the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters. The final research results will help us to better understand the critical factors that could impact students’ understanding, knowledge retention, and engagement in the subject matter. The developed AR material will be used to enhance the existing Building Structures, Materials and Methods, and other related courses.

Keywords: Structures, Augmented reality, Mixed reality, Head mounted display, Virtual field trips


  • Azhar, S.; Kim, J.; and Salman, A. (2018). “Implementing Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality Technologies in Construction Education: Students’ Perceptions and Lessons Learned.” Proceedings of the 11th ICERI Conference, Seville, Spain, November 12-14, 2018.