October 21, 2015
By Daniel Inocente, Kevin Vandeman

This is the Holistic Design Workflow team's first post in a series that will trace our research and development through the course of the HKS Idea Fellowship. Our research will be focused on the role of advanced computational processes and their implications on design to fabrication efficiencies. Through the implementation of integrated digital design and prototyping technologies, we are now beginning to see the potential for architects to eliminate the boundaries between design and fabrication processes.

The role of technology in the architectural process is now more paramount than ever before. Through the use of existing and emerging technologies, we aim to empower the architect with a set of tools and processes that challenge both the architect and the standard methodologies prominent in the discipline. Our research will focus on holistic design processes that will connect the design, fabrication and construction teams. The research will range from computational methods to fabrication technologies, including advanced software, materials science, robotics, simulation, analytical tools and delivery methods. With a mastery and understanding of these tools we will develop methodologies that will inform the design process and enable architects to pursue their visions with confidence.  


To illustrate the potential of this technology focused process, we created a case study that cannot be documented using traditional two-dimensional methods. The organization of this workflow becomes critical, as it allows us to break down a complex form into a series of associative parts and assemblies, parametrically driven, which can be modified as the design evolves. 

The surface of the design geometry is divided by work planes at each level and divided, for management, into its own part file. Construction geometry can then be extracted from the design surface to provide the skeleton for a framing system. Information is made available at each part level of the assembly, including every single structural member. These assemblies can then be scheduled and fabricated from every element. 

Autodesk Inventor pulls from a large library of industry standard profiles and sizes. This allows the designer and engineer to work collaboratively when creating a building system. If a custom engineered member is required, Inventor enables authorship of custom elements such as framing, mechanical and parametric assemblies. Updates to the design geometry can then parametrically drive elements that have been instantiated. These elements can also be authored with attributes including materiality, fabricator, cost, and more.



Holistic modeling is enabled by the advanced modeling engine within Inventor. This allows detailed models to be viewed, managed and operated on collaboratively. 


Element Generation and Analysis Frame Assembly Generation

  • Mechanical properties
  • Centroid data
  • Wire extraction
  • Node data

Multiple Assembly Management

  • Member listing and attributes
  • Multiple member editing
  • Selective modification
  • Change tracking

Analysis and Simulation

  • Displacement
  • Stress
  • Local system relations
  • Coded dialogue

Nodes and Rigid Links

Analytical Methods

  • Continuous Loads
  • Gravity
  • Moment Loads

Designs can be easily prototyped using integrated technologies, removing the loss of time and error involved in rebuilding geometry. Prototypes of multiple schemes can be generated to assist designers in their process and communication with clients. 


Complex designs can be managed in Revit and Inventor by combining the strengths of each program to create one cohesive project. Inventor handles intricate geometry, detailed building components and construction information, while Revit excels at coordination, documentation and scheduling. Because of the interoperability of the two platforms, information can be shared between live models, with updated information reflecting changes in each. The programs work collaboratively to allow components to be pulled out, detailed down to the part level, then brought back into the model. During this process, information can be extracted and sent to a fabricator for collaboration throughout the design. 


 “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tagged architecture, design, fabrication, HKS, idea fellowship, Technology

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