Computational Design Optimization of Large-Scale Building Structures: Methods, Benchmarking & Applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Architecture and Civil Engineering

Abstract

Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of large-scale structures such as tall buildings and long span roofs (e.g. all but one of the world's 20 tallest buildings was constructed in the last 15 years, almost all of which are over 400m in height; furthermore, it has recently been estimated that 4 million skyscrapers of 40 stories will be required by 2050 to accommodate worldwide urban population growth). However, currently the forms of such structures are usually identified in an ad-hoc manner, with very limited application of optimization techniques, despite the fact that such techniques are now routinely used in other industrial sectors (e.g. automotive and aerospace). This means that material consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions will often be far higher than necessary, and novel structural configurations which permit inclusion of energy efficient features such as light wells or atriums will often be overlooked.

In this project highly efficient mathematical optimization methods will be developed specifically for large-scale building structures, and used to automatically identify efficient layouts of structural elements. This will enable determination of the 'absolute minimum material reference design' for a given design brief, providing a powerful new means of evaluating the relative efficiency of alternative structural layouts. Methods will also be developed to automatically generate simpler and more practical structural layouts, which consume little more material than the absolute minimum quantity.

The methods will be used to identify structurally efficient layouts for a range of applications, including tall building exoskeleton design and long-span canopy roof design. Considering tall buildings, a recent development has been the use of exoskeleton 'diagrids', which give a clear expression of the structural system, and are perceived to be more efficient than conventional solutions. However, the use of any predefined configuration will implicitly inhibit efficiency and vast numbers of alternative layouts will be able to be considered using the tools to be developed in this project. Considering long-span canopy roofs, such as those used in sports stadia, exhibition halls and factories, reducing material consumption by adopting a more efficient layout of elements leads to a 'virtuous circle' since as structural self-weight is reduced, so does the amount of structural material required to support this.

The project will result in the development of practical tools and guidance for practitioners, and educational materials for students. Successful delivery of the research can be expected to dramatically improve the ability of engineers to design structurally efficient large-scale buildings.
 
Description The project has led to the development of powerful new computational techniques that allow structurally efficient forms for structures forming buildings and bridges to be identified. These can help engineers to produce more efficient desgns with lower carbon footprints.
Exploitation Route Via accessing publications written by project personnel and using the software tools developed.
Sectors Construction

 
Description Methods developed in the project have been used to create the Peregrine optimization tool, a plugin for the widely used Rhino/Grasshopper software. This has enabled the methods developed to be used by companies working in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Hands on workshop at BILT Europe 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We were invited to run a hands-on workshop at BILT Europe in Edinburgh in October 2019. This was an interactive "hands on" workshop attended by around 20 engineering practitioners from across Europe. An enhanced version of the optimization software prepared for previous workshops was used. This software helped to demonstrate the power of structural optimization in a sector unfamiliar with its application.

Prior to the workshop interested delegates were also able to attend a 75 minute lecture covering background theory etc.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.dbeinstitute.org/event/bilt-europe-2019/schedule/
 
Description Hands-On Optimization Workshop at the Building Centre, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An interactive "hands on" workshop attended by around 20 engineering practitioners and students was held at the Building Centre in London in November 2018. Software originally prepared for a previous workshop, held at an IASS workshop at MIT some months earlier, was used at the workshop. This software helped to demonstrate the power of structural optimization in a sector unfamiliar with its application. Attendees included engineers from leading UK-based structural engineering consultancies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.build-opt.org/news/2018/11/10/optimization-driven-conceptual-structural-design-workshop
 
Description IASS Invited Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Ran a well-attended workshop on structural optimization, which included a keynote by Bill Baker of SOM, one of the world's leading structural engineers, as well as presentations covering project outcomes and use of the methods developed in the project by industry (delivered by colleagues from Arup). Led to requests on how to access the tools presented.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://congress.cimne.com/formandforce2019/frontal/Invited.asp
 
Description Optimization Workshop at IABSE Future of Design Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An interactive "hands on" workshop attended by around 40 engineering practitioners and students was held at the IABSE Future of Design Conference. Special software was prepared for the workshop, which helped to demonstrate the power of structural optimization in a sector unfamiliar with its application. Attendees included the President of the Institution of Structural Engineers, sparking a future collaboration and joint publication.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://iabse.org.uk/fod-sheffield-2017/
 
Description Optimization-Driven Creativity In Structural Design Workshop (IASS 2018, MIT) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A one day interactive "hands on" workshop attended by around 20 engineering practitioners and students was held at the 2018 IASS Annual Conference held at MIT. Special software was prepared for the workshop, which helped to demonstrate the power of structural optimization in a sector unfamiliar with its application. Attendees included engineers from leading international consultancies and researchers from prominent universities from around the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.build-opt.org/news/2018/6/13/optimization-driven-creativity-in-structural-design-iass2018...
 
Description Presentation at Digital Construction Week (Excel Centre) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd presented his active research projects as a speaker at Digital Construction Week.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.digitalconstructionweek.com/
 
Description Presentation at SCI Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Delivered a presentation entitled "Computational layout optimization of building structures" at the SCI annual conference in November 2019. This sparked questions and increased awareness amongst delegates of the optimization technology developed as part of the research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to Ecole des Ponts ParisTech (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd presented his active research projects in-depth, during a talk to Staff, Postgraduates and Undergraduates at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, France.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to Robert Bird Group (London Office) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd presented his active research projects in-depth, during a CPD-style Lunchtime Talk to an office of Practicing Consultant Engineers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to TonyGee & Partners (London Office) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd presented his active research projects in-depth, during a CPD-style Lunchtime Talk to an office of Practicing Consultant Engineers. The talk was also live-streamed to the company's Dubai Office.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation to TonyGee & Partners (Stroud Office) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd presented his active research projects in-depth, during a CPD-style Lunchtime Talk to an office of Practicing Consultant Engineers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to i3P Delivery Leadership Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Paul Shepherd introduced the i3P's Delivery Leadership Group (key industry stakeholders) to the ACORN Research Project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project dissemination event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In November 2019 we held a project dissemination event at the IStructE in London, attended physically or virtually by approx. 200 people. The event comprised (i) a half-day hands-on computer laboratory session, (ii) a half-day mini-conference, (iii) an evening lecture.

The evening lecture was recorded and has been watched by >2000 people as of March 2020.

Feedback was extremely positive, with many participants indicating that they now had a better understanding of the role and power of structural layout optimization.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.build-opt.org/news/istructe-nov19
 
Description Workshop at IStructE Digital Design & Computation Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We were invited to run a hands-on workshop at First IStructE Digital Design & Computation Conference, held on 28 March 2019. This was an interactive "hands on" workshop attended by around 30 engineering practitioners and students. An enhanced version of software prepared for previous workshops was used. This software helped to demonstrate the power of structural optimization in a sector unfamiliar with its application. Attendees included engineers from leading UK-based structural engineering consultancies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019