How to make engineers more creative? Ask them to replace themselves.

Perhaps the ultimate goal from digitalising the engineering process is to be able to provide project specific platforms which are capable of providing the client/architect with the engineering solution without the need for the engineers. While this might sound daunting at first it is very much the future of our industry and this is not the case only for engineering but also for majority of the technical disciplines within the industry. After all taking the human out of the process can only lead to a faster and error free solution, should the software be design to function appropriately. The proposition does not eliminate the need for creative design process, just the opposite it allows the creative stage to be prolonged. Assuming that all mundane and manual engineering tasks which previously occupied months of design programme can be taken out, the design team can have more time designing at concept level and leave the computer to engineer the problem then. Various attempts have been done to prove this concept with various success. The example presented here is a completed Define Engineers project for a hospital in Bucharest, Romania which takes this concept about half-way. The workflow broadly follows figure 1.

Figure 1: Fully parametric building design workflow

Figure 2: Grasshopper script generating the geometry and engineering models

The brief from the architect was to devise a lightweight structural frame for an atrium enclosure with boundaries on four sides. The architect was keen to explore tree-like space frame with planar trusses intersecting at various angles. At the time of concept design the architect was not familiar with Rhino/Grasshopper. To handle this the engineering team developed a model which allowed geometric changes to be introduced simply by changing a number of basic parameters (Figure 3.)

Figure 3: Grasshopper script indicating where geometric changes can be introduced

The fact that the architect was not trained in using parametric software presented an ideal opportunity for exploring the complete workflow while giving the design team the ability to take control of the geometry once the script was built. The GH script included a Salamander 3.0 routine which generated an analysis model in ETABS structural analysis software. That meant that after the initial script was developed the design was handed to the architect to fix the geometry. No further engineering input was required by Define as at every change of geometry the script was simultaneously engineering the structure. The final geometry was exported by the main contractor to TEKLA structures for further detailing and fabrication.

Figure 4: Complete structural frame utilising full parametric building design approach


Vladimir Marinov

director | define engineers


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