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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

IDEA Studio: Design Optioneering

BIM -It is Alive in the Lab


The Autodesk IDEA Studio is a residency program for students, faculty, and industry professionals who apply design-driven solutions to problems in business, society, and the environment. Autodesk provides residents with a place to work at our Gallery at One Market in San Francisco, free use of software, and access to our design professionals worldwide who serve a variety of industries such as Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC), Manufacturing (MFG), Media/Entertainment (M&E), and Engineering/Natural Resources/Infrastructure (ENI). In turn, IDEA Studio residents address real-life challenges by finding new and imaginative ways to use design technology with compelling and inspiring results. The results push the boundaries of our software in ways we might not have previously considered. It's a WIN-WIN. It's like the old Las Vegas casino saying "Winner. Winner. Chicken dinner."

Recently researchers from University of Southern California sought to revolutionize early stage building design by "designing in" energy and economics through automation and evolutionary optimization.


  • Dr. David Gerber, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California // more
  • Penny Pan, PhD student in Computer Science, University of Southern California
  • Eve Lin, PhD student in Architecture, University of Southern California


Using Project Vasari and Revit Architecture while in the IDEA Studio, Penny and Eve created initial project geometries and developed a custom extension for parameterization. This parameterization enabled them to manipulate their designs and rapidly generate many unique configurations.


Using the Project Vasari, Revit Architecture, and Autodesk Green Building Studio application programming interfaces (APIs), they then developed a plug-in to automatically generate, analyze, visualize, and rank various design configurations according to user-defined parameters, like energy use intensity and financial goals.

Embedding their system with a genetic algorithm, the team created a method for essentially breeding the best designs based on the customized parameters. Using the system to evaluate a complex form with two twisting towers resulted in an expansive solution space with varying geometries.


Some designs were stronger than others in the vast solution space. The top designs reflected the best mix of strong financial performance and design scores with minimized energy use. To reduce subjectivity in assigning design scores, they devised a quantitative approach where values were assigned to achievement of design intent, consideration of site constraints, and variability of level-to-level height and space usage.

This result of their efforts in the IDEA Studio offers the potential for multidisciplinary design teams to systematically explore a large number of design options and quickly find the best alternative. This evolutionary optimization loop could conceptually be applied at many scales. At the urban scale, one can imagine a city fully populated with highly optimized buildings, where the energy footprint is minimized and the urban inhabitants' benefit is maximized.

Thanks to Senior Marketing Manager, Kimberly Whinna, for some of the content in this blog posting.

The process of elimination is alive in the studio.


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