Nowadays thanks to technological advances, we are able to solve problems in a more efficient way, obtaining optimal solutions based on objectives and restrictions.
Specifically for the AEC sector, we can highlight Generative Design, a type of technology that allows generating a great variability of designs / solutions that address a specific problem, thus allowing experts to select the design that best suits their requirements. Some examples of problems where this type of technology can be applied are: The division of a plot into volumes, the division of houses into rooms, the design of rooms, or the optimal selection of materials for a certain part of the design.
These types of applications (depending on the complexity of the problem and the flexibility of the application) can save from 50% to 90% of the time that will be needed if it is performed in a traditional methodology. Thanks to these types of tools, tasks that took days or weeks to complete, now will take just a few minutes or hours.
To explain it better, let’s take Kitchen Designer as an example. This tool is a design assistant for kitchens that allows the user to obtain a great variability of solutions in just a few seconds after having selected a room from Revit.
After those seconds, the user will be able to look at each solution in a 2D and 3D format, evaluate them and select the most appropriate one according to specific criteria, such as functionality, the amount of storage available and the total cost. Once the most optimal solution has been decided, and a detailed budget checked, it is time to download the selected kitchen to Revit which is fully integrated.
In addition, to work even faster, it is possible to select multiple kitchens, so the tool will generate and download the best option for each of them.
How Kitchen Designer works
The first step, in this type of application, is to interpret the constraints of the problem, in this case the tool will study the geometry of a room, but in another type of application it could study the volume of a building or the geometry of a plot.
The second step is to create initial solutions by following certain rules. These solutions will be evaluated according to the criteria defined previously, thus allowing the tool to create improved variations of those solutions through an optimisation process. This process can last from less than a second to hours depending on the purpose and complexity of the problem.
In the following picture, an example of this type of Evaluation-Variation interaction is shown. In the kitchen on the left we can see a composition in which the “triangle of work” (those areas of the kitchen where the work is usually done) has a negative evaluation, to improve it, it was necessary to change the oven-microwave position, obtaining therefore the solution on the right, thereby achieving a better “triangle of work” and a better solution.
The knowledge of the expert
In order to develop this type of technology, it is necessary to model the knowledge obtained by the experts in the field. For this purpose, it is essential to create a document where the requirements are specified, for example, it is important to detail:
- The elements that define the problem (characteristics, dimensions, etc.)
- The constraints between the elements (maximum/minimum distances, etc.)
- The regulatory requirements
- The degrees of freedom
- How the evaluation of the solutions will be carried out, to know the quality of these ones
All of this will help developers develop a technology that generates quality solutions and that better fits what users want.
In addition, this technology can only be used by expert users who will evaluate if the solutions are good and if they fit their needs.
Innovate to design and build more efficiently
To conclude, we would like to emphasize that although in this post we have only discussed Generative Design there are many more technologies that can be used in the AEC sector that can take advantage of the potential of technological advances. In some cases and for certain problems, we can find a standardized technology, ready to be used and without the need of being customized. In other cases, however, it will be necessary to implement a customized technology that needs to be adapted to a specific problem, since not all processes are carried out in the same way among different companies.
In both cases, it is important for companies to benefit from these technological advances, carry out intern analysis and find ways to improve their processes, thus increasing profit margin and competitive advantage. It can be assumed that the development or deployment of technology is costly, but in the long term, the benefits that will be obtained will be the key to success.
Lorena Cruz – Business Development Lead