In this third and final post in our series about Design Explorer, we focus on how the tool is currently being used in practice by architects, engineers, and designers. The discussions about design space navigation and the too many iterations problem are all well and good, but without some specific examples it’s all admittedly a bit abstract. This post will attempt to bring some specificity to the conversation by showing how some avant garde AEC technologists are using Design Explorer to navigate project specific design spaces.

Case #1 – Typical Block Massing


Data set link

KPF Urban Interface was kind enough to share a portion of their Ideal Block: London design space with us for this post. KPF.UI created a parametric model that generated massing geometry for an idealized residential block in London, and analyzed the performance of the massing based on a number of metrics: available daylight, sky exposure, site coverage, floor area ratio, etc.

Case #2 – Balconies, Daylighting and Operational Energy


Data set link

While still at the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters of Environmental Building Design program, Mingbo Peng (now a Project Consultant in the Sustainability Practice at Thornton Tomasetti) developed a design space exploring the relationships between balconies, daylighting, and operational energy for typical New Orleans apartments. More information on the study can be found here.

Case #3 – TT Embodied Carbon Database


Data set link

Thornton Tomasetti’s corporate sustainability department has been compiling a database of our completed projects’ embodied carbon footprints over the past few years. The design space above is a small sample of that database that compares projects’ sizes and embodied carbon footprints. I think this one is particularly interesting since the data didn’t come from a parametric model. Design Explorer can be used to visualize a very wide variety of design spaces. It’s not just limited to parametric AEC models.

Case #4 – Roof Truss Topology and Sizing


Data set link

CORE studio developed this example to demonstrate [to our Grasshopper-savvy structural engineering teams at Thornton Tomasetti] that Design Explorer can be used for structural work, too. Since most of the Design Explorer work we’ve shown to date has been related to environmental / sustainable design problems, there was a widespread misconception that it could only be used for those types of problems — not so!   This example explores how topology and member sizing relate to deflection, self weight, and structural utilization.

We chose to limit this post to these few case studies, but we wanted to show so many more … especially a product design example (something very small) and a purely numerical example (something without a body to show in 2D or 3D). If you’ve made it this far, the author will have to assume that you can use your imagination to conjure those last two. We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Design Explorer, and that you’ll continue to use and fork the project in the months to come.

Happy exploring! Don’t get lost in all of those extra dimensions out there…


Shot from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (Source)

Written by: Benjamin Howes