Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Timothy R.B. Taylor

Second Advisor

Dr. William F. Maloney


Construction project performance and worker productivity are often tied to the availability and effective presentation of information, tools, materials, and equipment. While advancements in technology have improved much of the processes on a construction project, the medium of information dissemination at the construction work face has consistently relied on the use of two dimensional drawings and specifications.

Industry initiatives are driving increased collaboration through three dimensional BIM (Building Information Modeling) models. However, the added dimension partially loses its effect when presented on a two dimensional computer monitor. Other computer forms of presentation intended for mobility (PDAs, laptops, and tablets) can be difficult to use in the field due to glare, durability in a harsh working environment, and the required skill level for effective use. Three dimensional (3D) physical printers now provide the capability to develop scaled and color models of a project directly from a BIM model. 3D physical printers represent a potential transformative change of providing engineering information to construction crews, but how to develop 3D models that leverage the cognitive benefits of viewing engineering information in a physical 3D form is unknown.

The primary contribution to the overall body of knowledge of this dissertation is to scientifically examine the effect that different engineering information mediums have on an individual’s cognitive ability to effectively and accurately interpret spatial information. First, the author developed a robust scientific experiment for construction practitioners and students to complete. This experiment included outcomes measures on mental workload, cognitive demand, productivity, efficiency, demographics, and preferences. After collecting data, the author analyzed the outcomes through a series of statistical analyses to measure the differences between groups and quantify the affect and relationship among key variables.

From the results, there are statistically significant improvements in productivity and efficiency of practitioners and students when using a physical model compared to two dimensional drawings and a three dimensional computer model. In addition, the average cognitive demand for a physical model was lower than the average cognitive demand for two dimensional drawings and three dimensional computer model.