Cognitive workload demands using 2D and 3D spatial engineering information formats

Gabriel B. Dadi, Paul M. Goodrum, Timothy R.B. Taylor, C. Melody Carswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Construction project performance is significantly reliant on the effective communication of the project's design to the end construction worker. Spatial design is frequently represented in two-dimensional (2D) drawings of various views. These views must be combined and decoded by the end user to effectively understand all orientations of a building element and can lead to errors. Advances in three-dimensional computer-aided design (3D CAD) and 3D printing have provided promising advancements in the presentation of spatial engineering information. This research investigates cognitive-workload demands of each information format. Cognitive workload is the amount of mental resources required to complete a task from the total available mental resources. Asking subjects to complete a reconstructing task of a simple structure using 2D drawings, a 3D CAD interface, and a 3D printed model introduces the individuals to alternative forms of information presentation. After completing the task, the subjects were surveyed on their perceptions of mental workload in six main factors using the NASA Task Load Index (TLX). Through a statistical analysis, there was no difference in mental workload between the three types of information presentation, indicating that the cognitive demands of the mediums are similar. However, there were statistically significant differences in workload factors due to demographic influences, such as occupation and CAD experience levels. In addition, mental workload affected the subject's productivity in task completion. The primary contribution to the overall body of knowledge is the investigation of mental workload as a factor in spatial understanding, and more specifically, identifying cognitive demands of individuals when presented with spatial engineering information in various formats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04014001
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2014


  • Additive manufacturing
  • Analysis of variance
  • Information management
  • Labor and personnel issues
  • Mental workload
  • Productivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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