Automated Feasibility Project


A common circumstance of working with commercial development clients is producing feasibility studies to examine the value of pursuing a project on a particular site. Factors such as local zoning ordinances, building code, desired program, and site constraints all inform the buildable potential of a site and determine whether it is financially and strategically advantageous to invest in a project. Feasibility studies require the right balance of accuracy and efficient time management given the likelihood that many projects will not come to fruition.

My colleague Jason Weldon and I are currently embarking on a project to investigate the potential use of Dynamo for automating portions of the feasibility process. The two essential advantages to this approach are buying back time for deeper investigation and the validation of proposed schemes through iteration. Automation through Dynamo will significantly reduce initial preparation and manual input of information required to start a BIM model. Alteration of computational constraints will enact changes to the model for testing schemes and instantaneous calculations provide a report for each iteration. This process promotes efficiency and substantiates certainty.

Phase 1
Zoning Setbacks, Levels, Floor-to-Floor Height, & Courtyard

All studies begin with the same ingredients: a plot plan or civil drawing and preliminary zoning research. Working from these items alone, a maximum allowable building envelope can be established. Floor Area Ratio allowances and incentive zoning can be incorporated to evaluate proportional modifications to the overall envelope.

automated feasibility_phase 1.GIF

Here I start out by collecting the property line for a site from Revit. From the property line, I am able to establish setbacks on all five edges of the site. Constraints for the overall number of floors and floor-to-floor height allow to me to quickly explore different massing compositions. Inserting a courtyard facilitates improved residential potential for the site due to increased light and ventilation. By adjusting the distance of the courtyard from the exterior face of the building, it is possible to experiment with the proportional balance of form and floor area efficiency.

automated feasibility_definition

Download the open source definition here .

The Glass Cage

I recently read the book "The Glass Cage: Automation and Us" by Nicholas Carr and was inspired by his message of the growing advantages and dangers of technology, particularly pertaining to design and architecture.

Carr says, "Technology is as crucial to the work of knowing as it is to the work of production. The human body, in its native, unadorned state, is a feeble thing. It's constrained in its strength, its dexterity, its sensory range, its calculative prowess, its memory. It quickly reaches the limits of what it can do. But the body encompasses a mind that can imagine, desire, and plan for achievements the body alone can't fulfill. The tension between what the body can accomplish and what the mind can envision is what gave rise to and continues to propel and shape technology. It's the spur for humankind's extension of itself and elaboration of nature. Technology isn't what makes us 'posthuman' or 'transhuman', as some writers and scholars have recently suggested. It's what makes us human. Technology is in our nature. Through our tools we give our dreams form. We bring them into the world. The practicality of technology may distinguish it from art, but both spring from a similar, distinctly human yearning."