Recently, in the Architecture industry, there has been a rapid shift in the way designs are produced; both in the tools used and the processes employed to generate outcomes
More and more we are seeing automation become a critical link in the design production chain, with earlier technological constraints that held computational design back no longer being an issue. Computers are fast, powerful and capable of handling complex algorithms.
When used appropriately, generative design has been proven to drastically increase the speed through which designs can be explored and iterated, comprising the quality of outcomes.
Generative design is a bridge that creates efficiencies between traditional design methods and automated decision making. Traditionally, architects design by co-creating the client brief, collating information from a range of parameters and responding to constraints to define an optimal design solution - this can be timely and complex and doesn’t necessarily result in the best outcome, as they are bound by their subjectivity, track record, experiences and time.
With generative design, the majority of creation remains with the architects as they must still have an adequate understanding of the traditional design parameters such as site boundary, desired gross floor area, height restrictions – the computational processes simply remove any bias and generates feasible output options for critique.
In the case of office fit outs, for example, generative design would allow the architects to define overarching parameters such as the minimum area per user and optimal lighting levels. Generative design tools will then provide a large number of design iterations to suit the specific spatial constraints. Generative design tools will then look for solutions around seating plans, the number of desks, amount of light needed, ventilation etc – architects traditionally do this intuitively, whereas generative design tools deliver this through learnt algorithms.
Traditionally, architects are required to meticulously work through various procedures and processes that help generate a design that meets the requirements of the end-user. This requires a lot of manual work and is time-consuming, making generative design of enticing because of its inherent speed and relative ease to understand.
In practice, the architect inputs the known parameters, and the computer generates a countless number of iterations that explore many more solutions than any human could attempt to produce with traditional methods.
The architect is still able to subjectively asses each solution in terms of its perceived program, amenity value or any other criteria they deem important. This gives a new agency to the architect as there is less time working through planning and drawing layouts during the early stages of the design and more time refining the outputs to deliver the best outcome.
In the eyes of most end users, the design process is unimportant as it is the result that is of interest. So, the question becomes, how does generative design help architects provide value to the client?
The obvious answer is in the time that is saved during the process and yes, while this is a major benefit to both the designer and the client it is not the only benefit.
Feasibility is a huge part of realising a design. Generative design considers this to a high degree and only produces feasible outputs. This becomes incredibly useful when analysing development potential as the design can provide data such as potential returns on investment or lettable floor area. In addition to this, environmental factors can be calculated using generative design, allowing the designer to efficiently determine the sunlight and ventilation of a design.
Incorporating generative design strategies into a design process also opens new avenues of dialogue between the designer and the client. Traditionally, if a masterplan or residential development was designed and the client dislikes the output, it can cost the designer hours or even days of work. However, using generative design, the designer can quickly produce several solutions that can be iterated repeatedly until the client is happy at minimal cost to everyone involved.
Whether a project is a small-scale office fit-out, or a large-scale development project, there is a lot of value in utilising generative design within a project. As the world of automation grows so does the practice of architecture. In the context of architectural development, generative design outputs are almost indistinguishable from a human design solution, hiding any evidence that each curve was tested hundreds of times until an appropriate solution was discovered.
As architecture continues to evolve, so too will the demand for fast, complex design solutions. Generative design seems well-positioned to play a crucial role in allowing designers to use parameter-driven optimisation to solve bigger problems faster.
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