Generative Design

The future of CAD

Why design will reach for the cloud

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Cloud computing is now a reality, providing reliable and scalable computational power to many enterprises without the associated costs and internal IT teams. But what does it mean for Generative Design ?

It is simple. It will remove the major bottleneck – computational capacity. It will open the flood gates, making  massive amount of computational capacities available for the computational exploration of design. It is a blessing. Design exploration requires computational horsepower. Generative design needs lots of it. Lots and lots of it.

Applications in design

Initially, this massive computational horse power is going to benefit rendering. You can now use 100’s of CPUs to render realistic images. DreamWorks has begun to use it. Fujitsu too has launched its “EngineeringCloud” for  computer-aided design (CAD) and analytic software. So has Autodesk. Both Vasari and Centuar are cloud based platforms along with Neon, a rendering service, Butterfly, an online CAD editor, and Photofly,a service that allows you to create 3D models from digital camera pictures. The advantages are obvious

By designing Inventor into the cloud our users can consider many alternatives saidRochelle. “These computer simulations have been restricted on the desktop due to the hardware limitations.”

What is next ?

Now, that is an interesting question. There are two major advantages in using hi-octane computing. Increased computational power with the ability to deal with massive amount of data is likely to drive serious design out of the hands of those who are tied to single CPUs. The advantages to those who are well prepared for cloud based design will soon be obvious when  performative efficiency gains and drastic improvements in design quality become apparent.

Are architects ready?

The simple answerer is no. Architects have only recently discovered parametric design and are too excited with stuff like BIM – which were there long ago, but remained obscure. For now, there are only parametrically driven design exploration methods which can be used for creating variations. These variations are driven by the designer. They are created one at a time. Generated manually – by the designer. The resulting squiggly shapes are routinely passed off as generative design. So why bother.

Generative Design is yet to happen. We are yet to use computers for automated or semi automated design exploration. Systematic methods for setting up generative schemes are yet to be formulated. Decades of academic research and millions of $ or academic research funding in architecture is yet to produce noticeable results – in using computers as generative tools, capable of exploring design possibilities, unguided by the brilliance of the designer.

Proof of the pudding

Is likely to come from improving measurable performances like energy cost and carbon foot print that will create significant and meaningful advantages. Vasari – Autodesk initiative is certainly a step in  the right direction. What is lacking however is generative design –  ways and means of setting up design processes for creating design variations many of which are now analysed for measurable results, using the vast computational capabilities opened up by cloud computing.

The combination of cloud computing and generative design is likley to create performative gaps between buildings designed with generative design and those that rely on experienced guess-work.


Written by Sivam Krish

July 4, 2011 at 11:33 pm

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