ABX2015 Workshop - Computational Design on Every Project

Image: courtesy of Paul Kassabian

Image: courtesy of Paul Kassabian

Architecture Boston Expo 2015
Hosted by The Boston Society of Architects (BSA)
Boston, MA
November 19th, 2015

Welcome to Tomorrow:
Computational Design on Every Project
Paul Kassabian - Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH)

Computational design technology allows designers and engineers to eliminate the repetitive "grunt work" inherent in every project. Automation was introduced during the Industrial Revolution and digital programming for automation arrived with the invention of computers, resulting in considerably increased efficiency for many industries. Tools for producing buildings have evolved immensely over the years - from analog to digital and now ever-changing software platforms - therefore it is imperative to stay flexible and ready to adapt to emerging technologies. Ultimately, the key is making tools work for us in order to ensure continuous improvement of the process for design and construction.

Current design software can be organized into three approaches:
1. Geometry - Rhino & Revit
2. Logic - Grasshopper for Rhino & Dynamo for Revit
3. Performance - software & custom add-ins for: daylight studies, structural analysis, building performance, etc.

And most computational approaches can be broken into three main categories:
1. RAD - Rapid Automated Drawings
2. RAY - Daylighting Analysis
3. RAP - Rapid Analysis & Planning

While Paul Kassabian appreciates the large and complex projects he often works on, some of his projects have been at smaller scales such as pavillions and installations where more experimental liberties can be taken. Regardless of size, invaluable lessons can be learned on any project.

One of the most interesting workflows presented was using custom code with Grasshopper and Rhino to generate structural beam and girder layouts for establishing maximum economy of materials. Structural members not only have prescribed sizes and connection methods but they also have an associated cost. By parametrically constraining the dimensions of each piece and including calculations for spacing and arrangement, the Grasshopper definition runs through hundreds of possible configurations simply by changing a few number sliders.

VIDEO - Parametric Steel Frame and MEP Layout

Even more impressive, a graph at the lower portion of the floor plan displays how Estimated Steel Cost fluctuates based on changes to the inputs (minute 1:35). This is a really impressive approach to showing cost sensitivity during the design process.

Another great project presented was a Grasshopper script that automatically generated a schematic structural layout while massing objects were manipulated in Rhino. This would allow an architecture team to model various design schemes and instantaneously understand the structural requirements. Rather than waiting days or weeks to get feasibility and cost estimates back from the structural engineer, this approach helps the architects design with structure in mind. The structural information from the finalized design can then be imported into Revit to provide a head start for the engineering team.

VIDEO - Master Planning Phase - Structural and Facade Systems Development

Lastly, Paul discussed the advantages of co-location over the traditional production process. On projects where he has the opportunity to work alongside the architect, he is able to gain a deeper understanding of the design and customize computational design tools that accommodate the intricacies of the overall vision. As opposed to the more traditional approach of exchanging digital files, the increased communication and flexibility from co-location has led to some of the most creative and alluring projects.

More information about the session can be found HERE.
About Paul Kassabian