Texas Tech University

Student Testimonial: Research Opportunities for Design Graduate Students

Hannah Fields

December 4, 2020


Virtual reality meets interior design and architecture in Redha Gheraba’s research

Redha Gheraba, who recently graduated from Texas Tech with a Ph.D. in Environmental Design, joined the program with his research focus set on virtual reality in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.

Gheraba's graduate research project, A Comparative Analysis of Visualization Methods in Architecture: Employing Virtual Reality to Support the Decision-Making Process in the AEC Industry, focuses on the impact of virtual reality in the planning and execution of a design project.

Because architectural projects are unique and complex in nature, the design process of the built environment relies heavily on the collaborative effort of all parties involved in the project – particularly the design. The design team, Gheraba explains, plays and imperative role in conceptualizing design ideas to meet the client needs and objectives.

It is during the design phase that owners, end users, and their representatives are expected to make the most critical design and budgetary decisions—shaping the essential traits of the project, hence the need and necessity to create and integrate mechanisms to support the decision-making process at an early design stage.

"Important design decisions should not be based on assumptions, past experiences, or imagination," Gheraba said. "An example of the numerous problems that are a result of uninformed design decisions are 'change orders', known as the deviation from the original scope of work during or after the construction phase, which leads to an increase of the overall cost, and changes to the construction schedule of the project."

As Gheraba explains, disputes caused by change orders can cost construction projects both valuable time and money. Therefore, his aim through his project was to examine the effect of different visualization methods (i.e. virtual reality vs. construction drawings) on how well subjects understand information presented about a future/planned environment, subjects' perceived confidence in what the future environment would look like, likelihood of changing the built environment, design review time, and accuracy in reviewing and understanding the design.

What Gheraba found in his research was that virtual reality increases user understanding of a future/planned environment while decreasing the occurrence of change orders, had the potential to increase user confidence in critical design decisions by 42%, decrease design review time by 62%, increase accuracy of reviewing and understanding the design by 37%, and more.

Before Gheraba joined the Department of Design, he obtained a Graduate Certificate in The Architectural Imagination from Harvard University Extension Graduate School of Design (2018), a M.S. in Civil Engineering from Texas Tech University (2017), M.S. in Environmental Design and Architecture from Texas Tech University (2014), and a Dual Bachelor Degree in Architecture and Building Engineering from The University of Constantine (2010).

Gheraba said he chose the Department of Design at Texas Tech because of its unique degree programs, international reputation, academic legacy, flexibility in class schedule, and diversity in faculty backgrounds and expertise, adding that Texas Tech will always remain a special place to him as he moves forward with his career plans.

"At Texas Tech, I will be always an avid volunteer both in the campus community and outside of it," Gheraba said. "In the graduate school atmosphere and community, I believe my views and goals of spreading diversity to my peers, friends, and the overall college community would not be altered. Texas Tech University has held a special place in my heart, and I hope that it continues to have a profound effect on me after graduation."

Gheraba's current and future career plans are to secure funding of a large multi-year project to address the application of Immersive Virtual Reality in the AEC industry from different perspectives. He hopes to conduct community-based participatory research that actively engages local communities from different backgrounds in the research planning, implementation, and evaluation of results.