A study of the potential for digital platforms to achieve design collaboration between homebuyers in the development phase of multi-user-oriented housing
Urban development and densification are increasing rapidly; this fact has been globally reported. According to a 2014 United Nations report, the world population will increase by 25% in the next three decades. This significant growth means urban density will also increase drastically, creating an increase in high-rise apartment living quarters to cater for the population growth. Subsequently, the development of housing has been advancing - especially around construction techniques which are becoming more efficient to meet the demand of fast-growing urban populations. This thesis proposes that simply supplying housing is no longer sufficient to address the requirements of citizens. Denser living environments result in increased dissatisfaction, especially among those living in high-density housing. This research looks specifically into enabling homebuyers to voice their needs and design their living space. In this context, the social paradigm of high-density housing has not progressed much. There is still more a notion of supplying the needed quantity and homebuyers accepting the housing without question. Homebuyers, the main users of the housing, are often absent from both the planning and design process. Recent studies have shown that participation in their community is one of the key themes towards social sustainability. Many public participatory projects and platforms only allow participation in large scale urban developments and planning processes. There is a significant lack of initiatives that include homebuyers in the context of high-rise, high-density housing. The aim of this research is to explore how a computational tool within a virtual environment can facilitate and support design collaboration and interactions – not only between architects and homebuyers, but among individual and collective homebuyers too. The methodology of the research includes using focus groups to examine how digital tools can support and contribute to the collaborative design process of high-rise, high-density housing. The study is then tested with the public to determine if such design tools facilitate and support design collaborations. Three studies were undertaken: The first is a pre-tool development study. It uses a focus group to understand the factors necessary to engage homebuyers, and those factors that hinder such process. A digital tool for collaboration was then developed, based on analysis of the focus group results. A second study determines if the factors identified are sufficient for design collaboration within a digital environment. Based on this analysis, the tool was enhanced and integrated with third party visualisation software to enable the desired digital collaboration. A final study involves the public, examining whether such a design tool facilitates and supports their design collaborations. Throughout the research development, gamification techniques were introduced and adopted to further explore driving factors and to enhance design interactions. The target audience of this research is homebuyers, who are laypersons in architectural design processes and techniques. Gamification is, therefore, an effective technique to simplify the design process and enable homebuyers to immerse themselves in a collaborative design process. Virtual Reality is used at the final stage to immerse homebuyers further into the design environment and give them clearer feedback about their design decisions. The findings of the research confirm the benefits this novel collaborative design process has on the overall outcome of high-rise, high-dense buildings. It demonstrates how a virtual design tool can influence the process of consultation and procurement for homebuyers. A metadesign framework has been developed to provide a guide to the decision-making support necessary for such a collaborative design process. Finally, the research explains how such an enhanced communicative design operation can achieve the kind of synergies that break out of the current housing paradigm and take a major step forward in urban development.