Generative design

Generative design

A computer-aided design process generating hundreds of possible designs based on input parameters and constraints defined by the designer. Subsequently, the designer may vary the parameters to optimize and select the best solution.

Generative design is a process in which the designer defines a set of forces and design constraints, which is then used to create a large number of possible design solutions, normally by means of a computer program. Subsequently, the designer may explore, optimize and select the best design solution by varying the various design parameters.

In construction, generative design is used to create several different design suggestions for a new building or built structure.

Benefits and challenges

  • Better designs, as designers may explore a larger number of alternatives and navigate in trade-offs between different design parameters.
  • Better designs, as complex design parameters can be integrated in the design process, e.g. maximizing the amount of natural light in the building, or minimizing distance between employees working in the building.
  • More time is spent in the early phases of design to define constraints and design parameters. Reorganising the design process may be necessary.
  • Risk of missing out on creative and weird solutions to the design problem because all design criteria need to be specified objectively as parameters.

Application examples

In 2017, Autodesk demonstrate how a generative design algorithm was able to created 100 design interior layouts of an office building in Toronto. Autodesk designers used the algorithm to create the most optimal office layout, by making trade-offs between e.g. workers’ adjacency preferences and views to outside (

Generative design builds on parametric modelling. Parametric modelling involves creating a digital model that specifies “parametric rules” for the design. A parametric rule may e.g. specify the relationships between different elements of a building (e.g. a wall must start at floor level and reach the ceiling).  In construction, parametric modelling or parametric design has been used for a number of (typically specialized) construction projects. For the Shanghai Tower, parametric modelling was used to model the relationship between form and wind loads, and for the Beijing National Stadium, which was constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics, parametric modelling software was used to optimize the bowl geometry to athletics activities (

Development stage

Generative design has been demonstrated in construction, but is not yet implemented in practices. Parametric modelling, however, is on the market and implemented in construction practices.

Construction impact

This technology will primarily affect the design phase of construction projects. 

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24 JULY 2024