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  1. Green walls have been used in built environments as a natural element to bring various benefits, thus improving human health and well-being. However, in conventional virtual environments, the visual connection with a green wall is the only way that this natural element could benefit humans. Unfortunately, the impact of such visual connection on human thermal perception is still not well understood. Thus, we conducted an experimental study with 40 participants comparing the thermal state of two virtual sessions: biophilic (a room with a green wall) and non-biophilic (the same room without a green wall). Both sessions were conducted in a climate chamber under a slightly warm condition (28.89 °C and 50% relative humidity). Participants’ thermal state, skin temperature, and heart rate data were collected. According to the results, participants’ thermal comfort and hand skin temperature were significantly different between the two sessions, and their mean skin temperature was statistically increased over time. The study suggests that before the extent to which the impact of visual stimuli (e.g., green walls) on thermal perception is fully understood, researchers may need to control visual and thermal stimuli separately when using them in immersive virtual environments. Furthermore, the virtual exposure time should be anmore »important consideration when designing experimental procedures.« less
  2. Identification and quantitative understanding of factors that influence occupant energy behavior and thermal state during the design phase are critical in supporting effective energy-efficient design. To achieve this, immersive virtual environments (IVEs) have recently shown potential as a tool to simulate occupant energy behaviors and collect context-dependent behavior data for buildings under design. On the other hand, prior models of occupant energy behaviors and thermal states used correlation-based approaches, which failed to capture the underlying causal interactions between the influencing factors and hence were unable to uncover the true causing factors. Therefore, in this study, the authors investigate the applicability of causal inference for identifying the causing factors of occupant/participant energy behavioral intentions and their thermal states in IVE condition and compare those results with the baseline in-situ condition. The energy behavioral intentions here are a proximal antecedent of actual energy behaviors. A set of experiments involving 72 human subjects were performed through the use of a head-mounted device (HMD) in a climate chamber. The subjects were exposed to three different step temperatures (cool, neutral, warm) under an IVE and a baseline in-situ condition. Participants' individual factors, behavioral factors, skin temperatures, virtual experience factors, thermal states (sensation, acceptability, comfort), andmore »energy behavioral intentions were collected during the experiments. Structural causal models were learnt from data using the elicitation method in conjunction with the PC-Stable algorithm. The findings show that the causal inference framework is a potentially effective method for identifying causing factors of thermal states and energy behavioral intentions as well as quantifying their causal effects. In addition, the study shows that in IVE experiments, the participants' virtual experience factors such as their immersion, presence, and cybersickness were not the causing factors of thermal states and energy behavioral intentions. Furthermore, the study suggests that participants' behavioral factors such as their attitudes toward energy conservation and perceived behavioral control to conserve energy were the causing factors of their energy behavioral intentions. Also, the indoor temperature was a causing factor of general thermal sensation and overall skin temperature. The paper also discusses other findings, including discrepancies, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future studies.« less
  3. Recent studies have established immersive virtual environments (IVEs) as promising tools for studying human thermal states and human–building interactions. One advantage of using immersive virtual environments is that experiments or data collection can be conducted at any time of the year. However, previous studies have confirmed the potential impact of outdoor temperature variations, such as seasonal variations on human thermal sensation. To the best of our knowledge, no study has looked into the potential impact of variations in outdoor temperatures on experiments using IVE. Thus, this study aimed to determine if different outdoor temperature conditions affected the thermal states in experiments using IVEs. Experiments were conducted using a head mounted display (HMD) in a climate chamber, and the data was analyzed under three temperature ranges. A total of seventy-two people participated in the experiments conducted in two contrasting outdoor temperature conditions, i.e., cold and warm outdoor conditions. The in situ experiments conducted in two cases, i.e., cooling in warm outdoor conditions and heating in cold outdoor conditions, were used as a baseline. The baseline in-situ experiments were then compared with the IVE experiments conducted in four cases, i.e., cooling in warm and cold outdoor conditions and heating in warm andmore »cold outdoor conditions. The selection of cooling in cold outdoor conditions and heating in warm outdoor conditions for IVE experiments is particularly for studying the impact of outdoor temperature variations. Results showed that under the experimental and outdoor temperature conditions, outdoor temperature variations in most cases did not impact the results of IVE experiments, i.e., IVE experiments can replicate a temperature environment for participants compared to the ones in the in situ experiments. In addition, the participant’s thermal sensation vote was found to be a reliable indicator between IVE and in situ settings in all studied conditions. A few significantly different cases were related to thermal comfort, thermal acceptability, and overall skin temperature.« less
  4. Biophilic design as a new design approach promotes the integration of natural elements into the built environment, leading to a significant impact on human health, well-being, and productivity. On the other hand, scholars have explored Virtual Environment (VE) to create virtual nature and provide a complex experience of exposure to natural elements virtually. However, there is a lack of understanding about such studies in general, which use VE as a reliable tool to support biophilic design. Thus, the authors conducted a literature review on the applications, capabilities, and limitations of VE for biophilic design. The literature review shows that VE is capable of supporting critical features of biophilic design studies such as representing combinations of biophilic patterns, providing multimodal sensory inputs, simulating stress induction tasks, supporting required exposure time to observe biophilic patterns, and measuring human’s biological responses to natural environment. However, factors affecting user’s experience of a virtual biophilic environment exist, such as VE experience dimensions, user-related factors, cybersickness, navigational issues, and possible limitations of VE sensory input. Overall, biophilic design studies in VEs are still limited. Nevertheless, there are many opportunities for further research in this field.