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Explore New Solutions With Generative Design

Generative design allows designers to take advantage of the latest programming technologies to review vast amounts of design iterations in a short period of time—all while still adhering to the client’s objectives.
By Gabriel Salazar
November 11, 2019
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One of the biggest challenges faced in the design of capital projects may, at first, seem deceptively simple: to understand the needs of the owners and design a building around those parameters. How that understanding is translated into the design, however, is critical—and a major factor in the success of the project. Generative design allows designers to take advantage of the latest programming technologies to review vast amounts of design iterations in a short period of time—all while still adhering to the client’s objectives.

Translating an owner’s needs into physical design takes time. Unfortunately, time is also most often the largest obstacle for the design team. Designers are limited to how many iterations and scenarios they can build by a client’s deadline.

Generative design can generate thousands of detailed conforming designs in minutes. It can also identify which designs are most efficient and why, based on hard data. Every possible solution is investigated. All tangible outputs are visible.

Harnessing the power of generative design

Generative design enables designers to narrow down and select the best possible solution quickly and efficiently. Thousands of potential building designs can be produced rapidly based on the client’s requirements, such as the size of the plot, boundaries and more. The results can then be filtered using a wide range of parameters from the building’s number of floors to its return on investment.

In some situations, generative design may recognize a client’s needs or wants in a building design, but show that they aren’t possible given the parameters of the site, budget, or agency regulation. When a particular solution isn’t feasible, identifying that fact early enough in the process allows for adjustments to be made more easily and the project to remain on schedule.

Even in cases where generative design doesn’t solve a specific design issue completely, it can still be an important tool. In the health care industry, for example, space planning is a common concern. Large floor plates with multiple departments and room uses are often a challenge to plan. Having several design suggestions that meet the required criteria can cut down the planning difficulty dramatically.

Preparing for implementation

While the use of generative design won’t necessarily require that new roles be created, more technical BIM users will need to become involved in the project sooner (at least until generative design becomes a more out-of-the-box solution). Rather than designers working in silos, expect some of the early process to evolve into more of a collaboration.

Be prepared to trust and embrace the technology. Companies can easily have a false start with the implementation by not trusting generated results. Time spent double checking results or searching for possible missed solutions will negatively affect the efficiency of using the tools. Process planning is critical to best avoid this false start. Discuss topics such as what kind of data will be received and what is the expected result before starting a project.

Let’s take a look at a simpler form of technology as an example: the calculator. People often enter their problem twice to verify the solution is the same. That’s not because the calculator may be wrong, but rather the information could have been entered incorrectly. By have a well-planned process, designers can avoid the errors that could generate a false start.

Looking ahead

With generative design, so much trial and error can be eliminated—as can the cost that goes along with it. The insight gained as a result is also invaluable for informed decision-making. Once the best possible solution is identified, more time can be dedicated to details that might otherwise get overlooked.

Developers love this approach because their most expensive decisions become more data-driven and less risky. Architects enjoy being able to focus more on the creative and analytical side of what they do. Engineers and contractors appreciate the precision of the process and all the data that becomes available as a result.

For those who may still be a bit wary of embracing generative design, consider this: The hesitation is much the same as what we face daily at supermarket self-checkout lanes. Machines that “think” makes some people uncomfortable. There’s a lack of trust. Still, that doesn’t stop the spread of self-checkouts in stores across the globe. Why? It’s efficient. Those who embrace the technology early will be out of the store faster.

by Gabriel Salazar
Gabriel Salazar has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. A project manager at Enstoa, Salazar is skilled in AutoCAD, Revit, Sustainable Design, Design Research, and C# with a background in Architectural Design including the specialization of large project delivery. For more information, visit www.enstoa.com.

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