Mixed Reality – a retrofit revolution!

30 March 2022 - Published by Deirdre Buist
Stronghouse knowledge partners from the Robert Gordon University (RGU) are driving a real retrofit revolution as they combine virtual and physical realities into one space. Mixed Reality (MR) offers a new and exciting paradigm for architects, allowing the integration of sustainable design into their work.

Leading a team of researchers at The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment (SSS), Dr Amar Bennadji explains how they are exploring the role of mixed reality in architecture, urban design and teaching in collaboration with 16 universities (the 'World16') and 'Forum8' in Japan. “Our latest online Postgraduate Building Retrofit course, starting in September 2022, offers an exceptional opportunity to further investigate the use of MR learning. The PG energy renovation course has been inspired by the learnings and experience exchange during Stronghouse and is a capitalisation on the project’s success. Project outcomes will feed into the course. Now we've also been inspired by the use of MR and will add this element to  our learning package. If we really want to meet our net zero targets and  generate the skilled work force we’re  currently lacking in this field, we need to make teaching more accessible to the wider public. That’s where mixed reality comes in." 


Dr Amar Bennadji receives  Forum8 award 

Immersive experience

"Online teaching has many challenges - mixed reality can  help overcome some. It allows architects to work in a completely immersive environment - individually or collaboratively - where they can experience and understand buildings long before they are built or retrofitted. It helps to imagine and test new spaces and effectively visualize an overall project, while also reducing the number of physical prototypes required in the design process. This reduces material waste and improves a project’s carbon footprint.”

Acceleration & challenges

Although most countries have made significant efforts to promote the decarbonization of the building industry, current global affairs re-emphasize the urgent need to accelerate the energy transition. Speeding up the energy renovation process is also key. The Stronghouse partners have produced several studies highlighting the inherited challenges of improving the energy efficiency of buildings, including the financial barriers,  lack of awareness regarding retrofit options and the shortage of skilled professionals.

Engaging, enhanced learning

Now, Dr Bennadji and his team have addressed the lack of professionals by developing specific training programmes and courses on energy retrofitting. “Due to Covid restrictions, most thermal renovation courses are taught remotely through online-learning. However, this is a practical field and online participants need to be kept engaged. Energy renovation can be very complicated and complex  - with many variations (building typologies and materials) - so the novel technology of Mixed Reality can really enhance learning in  the virtual classroom.”

Researching new methods

“At the moment, the use of MR applications in teaching on the built environment is still at an early stage, so there is a lack of research on its effects and implications in energy retrofitting education. My research expands on the current knowledge by exploring the use of MR as a new method for students to learn how to energy retrofit existing buildings remotely.”

Postgraduate Building Retrofit course

By positioning RGU and The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at the forefront of digital technology, students are being equipped with the skill set required for a more energy efficient construction industry. The university’s new online course, Postgraduate Building Retrofit, represents an exceptional opportunity to use MR as an innovative educational tool and share experiences with other knowledge partners within the Stronghouse collaboration.

Combining technical & societal advances

RGU colleague Professor Richard Laing, whose research has concentrated on the use of digital visualization to support user and stakeholder engagement, applauds the work being undertaken by Amar and his team.  As Richard said: “The climate emergency means that we need to radically rethink how we design, use and look after our buildings, and this requires a combination of technical and societal advances. By using digital models to convey the effects that materials and behaviour can have on energy use, Amar is able to communicate his research to a wide audience. This makes it all the more exciting – it is a valuable contribution to reaching the potential of improving buildings and lives. Our Centre for Digital Cities and Society is especially interested in these issues, as they are central to a more sustainable future."

Keep up with developments

The Stronghouse project will certainly profit from this research, and the shared knowledge and experience of our Scottish partners with Mixed Reality. If you want to keep up with future developments in this regard, check the  project website regularly. Don’t want to miss a thing? Then follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn too, or subscribe to the Stronghouse Newsletter.


Sourced from an article by Jenny Frost (RGU)