The Advanced Computational Modeling Group (ACM) has been working on a research project which attempts to answer an important question:  How can collaboration between Architects and Engineers be more productive in the early design stages?

Over the past two years, we’ve been working with more and more architects who use Grasshopper in the schematic and pre-schematic design stages.  Concurrently, ACM has been developing a suite of generative structural design and analysis tools in Grasshopper which enable us to generate entire conceptual stage structural frame systems algorithmically, given only a set of geometric inputs from an architect.

The goal of this research project is to connect our clients’ architectural design definitions to our generative design tools via a shared database on the web.  We have been calling the work Remote Solving, and have been collaboratively developing the project with LMN Tech Studio (LMNts) since February.

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The idea is relatively simple: An architect’s grasshopper definition sends our customized grasshopper analytic solver definition some input geometry, our definition generates a structural model algorithmically, and reports the structure’s performance back to the architect. From the architect’s point of view, the structural work is being solved remotely, and useful order-of-magnitude performance data [material use, embodied energy and embodied carbon, structural beam depths and column sizes, etc.] is made available at near real time. Despite the fact that the structural output is preliminary in nature, this level of information is typically sufficient to help Architects/Owners make more informed design decisions. The structural performance feedback is particularly helpful as a comparative tool to analyze various geometric schemes.

ACM has developed custom MySQL database table schemes for exchanging the relevant design information, including schemes for column grid lines, floor profile curves, sized structural frames, and structural performance data. We utilize Nathan Miller’s Slingshot! plugin for Grasshopper / MySQL interoperability.

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The videos below show our Remote Solving prototype in action.  The architect’s client definition is on the left hand side, and is visualized in the rhino viewport with the black background.  The window on the right is a VNC view of the remote computer hosting the structural definition.  As the client [Architect’s definition] changes the design parameters or input geometry, new structural frames are generated and either geometry or performance data are returned by the server [ACM’s definition].

ACM will continue to pursue this research over the coming months, and is seeking active, early stage projects which could be used as case studies for the system.  We would like to thank Scott Crawford, Stephen Van Dyck, and Erick Katzenstien of LMN Architects for all of their creative input and invaluable feedback during the collaborative development of this research project, and are looking forward to developing the work with LMN in the future.

We believe this innovative workflow creating a closer collaboration between architects and engineers will vastly improve our projects and professional practice, and are excited about the next stages of our research with Remote Solving.