Ideas at the Touch of a Button

With Generative Design, a new digital tool is available for real estate development and planning to automatically create a multitude of design proposals in the shortest possible time. And the application can do much more, as architect Fabian Evers - Function Lead for Generative Design - explains in an interview.
Fabian Evers
Fabian Evers
Function Lead of Generative Design

Mr. Fabian Evers, by means of Generative Design, your division, STRABAG Innovation and Digitalization, has brought a new digital tool into use. What do you expect from it?
Fabian Evers: This tool allows us to offer our clients so much more variants during the planning phase than was previously the case. Due to a lack of time and budget, it was hardly possible for architectural firms to develop more than three or four ideas for a design problem, because these had to be worked out at a considerable expense of time. With Generative Design, developing ideas is now much quicker, easier and, at the same time, even more precise.

The digital tool works with automatically generated data. In the computer-aided design process, so-called evolutionary algorithms and generic optimisation methods generate a multitude of design alternatives in a short amount of time by combining design variables of a parametric model in different many ways. Instead of merely three or four, hundreds or thousands of ideas are generated. 

Building masses generated with the Generative Design tool for STRABAG Real Estate. Due to its open development environment, the CAD software Rhinoceros is used for the implementation. With the visual programming language Grasshopper for Rhinoceros, even non-experts easily succeed in handling the software.

So the computer is taking over the creative work of architects? 
No, that’s exactly what is not happening. But we are generating a new form of creativity. The machine creates such a multitude of proposals that there are inevitably some of which the architect would not have thought on his own.  

So what is the role of human beings in this computer-aided design process? 
They make basic decisions, set the framework conditions, define goals – the Generative Design tool calculates very detailed designs on this very basis. These also contain more and more precise key figures than the designers could ever compile.  

What benefit could be derived from this?
For our first application trials with colleagues from STRABAG Real Estate, for example, we automatically assigned building masses to plots of land that we considered optimal according to the client’s specifications, geo-information and building regulations. In combination with such key figures and parameters, project developers can also determine the values and potential of plots or districs for themselves or third parties in a quick, precise and cost-effective manner. We also see great potential for the topic of sustainability.

In the first application tests, plots of land were automatically assigned building masses that appear to be optimal according to the client’s specifications, geo-information and building regulations. Other relevant planning aspects, such as the calculation of the heating and cooling load or the duration of sunlight on the façade are also calculated in real time.

Can you elaborate? 
The carbon footprint for the entire life cycle will become a very decisive parameter for every building project in the future. With the right key figures, we could already make statements about emissions in the early design phase. I imagine that in the future, generative design will be a tool that architects will use in discussions with urban planners or clients to jointly run through design ideas. That way, they can discuss different parameters and specifications in real time and find the best ideas for further processing.

User testimonials:

‘GD quickly provides us with a higher variance of possible development concepts in the acquisition phase of plots. This can be a decisive advantage, especially in times of rising land prices and higher competition.’

Simone Walser
graduate engineer and architect, Head of Innovation Management, STRABAG Real Estate 

‘An architects design is an iterative process – Generative Design can purposefully show the designer a multitude of possible solutions through well-chosen strategies without getting lost in countless alternatives.’

Franz Wohnhaas
graduate engineer and architect, Team Leader Architectural Design, Managing Engineer Central Technical Division

Design & Engineering
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