As the population on the planet grows, automation will be crucial to designing the buildings that will be needed worldwide in the next 30 years and beyond. Computer automation almost certainly will be used to get us there, and generative design is one example.

Generative design is about a workflow using data and computers to help you create a lot of design options faster and comparing them to select a final design more efficiently. The computer doesn’t make up designs. It’s not a magic button. In order to do its work, it needs the input of the model geometry and parameters you set. Therefore, it will not take the place of the architect; rather, it augments workflows. I believe it actually is going to free up the architect to allow their creativity and artistic ability to flourish to new heights. And I, for one, am really excited to see what is possible when an architect collaborates with generative design as an extension of their creativity.

In the partnership between designers and generative design, you still have to think creatively about designing the automated workflow. From starting with a pattern to test automated layouts to comparing the options, the human aspect of design remains. The computer only augments the human and makes it feasible to study more than you could manually. It’s a new dimension, a new element in design. Take advantage of it to refine your goals for the design after having a conversation to set those goals with a diverse project team.

Autodesk generative design software has been in beta testing (Project Refinery) for over four years with the goal of developing a product that works well with Revit, and it recently graduated to being included as a tool within Revit 2021. This is an exciting moment and one that starts to make generative design accessible to the masses.

Although we’ve been talking about using generative design for a couple of years now, the concept is still new to a lot of people. A fair number of people are still using 2D CAD. They are probably not going to use generative design any time soon. But we now have available to a large audience the tools that were once used in a one-off situation. As progressive leaders in design, architects should be stepping up to the plate to learn about using generative design in the workflows where it makes sense.

A generative workflow isn’t needed on some projects. But on projects where it can save a lot of money without requiring major changes, you should consider it. Examples of ideal cases for generative design are projects like roadway layouts, irregular forms in architecture and situations where custom scripts can be used multiple times. Autodesk Dynamo makes it easier for architects and engineers to program geometry and measure the effectiveness of that geometry.

Set your ultimate goals for your design, organize what’s important in a final design, and let the computer come up with a hundred options. You will then be able to filter the options using your goals.

Bridging the Gap Podcast, episode 28 with guest Lilli Smith of Autodesk.

In the 28th episode of the Bridging the Gap Podcast, I interview Lilli Smith, Senior Product Manager for AEC Generative Design at Autodesk. Lilli is an architect who was drawn to using next generation software tools for energy efficient building design during the infancy of the climate change conversation. She’s excited about the possibilities for generative design in the future of building things. Listen to the episode today for our full conversation on all things generative design.   


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