Analysis and Simulation

Analysis and Simulation

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4647-6.ch010
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In the previous three chapters the author has considered direct connections between the brief and the design representation, between discrete items in the brief, such as requirements or constraints, and attributes of entities or relationships between entities in the design. Such connections cover the bulk of the brief but leave out important questions that concern overall performance and relate to general, frequently abstract goals in the brief like sustainability. To tackle such questions, one must often analyse the design as a whole: predict its behaviour and performance and compare it to what the brief and legal or professional requirements specify. Computerization offers a wide range of possibilities for performing such extensive and demanding tasks automatically. In this chapter a few examples of computerized design analysis both within the programs that have been used so far and in external software are discussed. These analyses are primarily performed through simulations that promise the accuracy, reliability, and transparency required to achieve and safeguard the brief goals.
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Design Analysis

Analysis and Computerization

The ability to analyse aspects of a design efficiently, transparently, precisely, and accurately is probably the most important promise of computerization to architecture. Before computerization we had to restrict design analysis in two important respects. The first was that we often chose to deal with as little information as possible, usually abstracting design representations into a few typical or characteristic features and patterns. Even in full-scale simulation, where a prototype would be constructed and tested, normally the smallest possible part was made, for example, a single office of a large, multistorey office building, making the otherwise valuable results of such simulations lacking with respect to many contextual aspects. The second restriction was that we generally used simple, normative calculations to process the selected features and patterns, since only such calculations were feasible or economical by hand or with simple calculating devices. As a result, many design analyses were limited, vague, or superficial. They were unable to capture the complexity and variability we daily encounter in the built environment.

Computerized design analysis is a far cry from that because it does not suffer from either restriction. As we have seen in the preceding chapters, CAD and BIM programs are capable of storing and maintaining large quantities of detailed data in coherent and consistent design representations. Consequently, we do not have to limit analysis to parts or abstractions of a design. Moreover, computers can process data meticulously and with unprecedented speed, making it possible to process the stored information, however large, with great efficiency, even when using complex calculations and procedures previously practically unattainable. Rather than relying on opinion, rules of thumb, or quasi-arbitrary associations, we can use detailed, reliable, and often complete information to fully simulate the behaviour and performance of the building specified by a design.

In analysis (contrary to synthesis and even design representation), the computer can largely replace human processing. All we have to do is provide the input and evaluate the output (as opposed to interactively manipulating design information in a drawing or model). The computer does all the rest, finally becoming an intelligent assistant and helpful partner rather than a mere digital version of drafting table, paper, and pen. However, despite its huge potential, computerized design analysis has yet to take its rightful position in architectural computerization. Some analyses are already used extensively, while others are seldom applied. For example, many CAD and BIM programs include light simulation facilities that provide quite reliable and accurate projections of natural and artificial lighting in a design. On the other hand, simulations of other aspects critical to user comfort and building performance such as air flow and acoustics are far from popular, even though we are all aware of how unpredictable buildings can be in such respects (unpredictable in the sense that designers fail or neglect to predict their behaviour and performance).

The reasons for accepting and integrating specific computerized analyses appear to be rather basic. Availability and cost are important factors: light simulation is often present in CAD and BIM, while airflow simulation requires external, generally expensive software that must be learned separately and requires a deeper understanding of the phenomena it describes. Moreover, light simulation is applied not to produce insights into the consequences of design decisions and the performance of a building but primarily to produce the photorealistic renderings that seem to have become the primary innovation of architectural design computerization. Finally, many advanced analysis programs tend to require rather complete and often detailed design representations as input. Such representations are not routinely available from design documentation. In this respect, the promise of BIM is significant. Although it offers no automatic guarantees for completeness and coherence in a design representation, BIM can make design evaluation feasible, efficient, and transparent by helping us develop representations that provide comprehensive input to all possible analyses.

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