The sun can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. At last month’s ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX), Michael Hinchcliffe and Ranjit Korah spoke about how Payette is integrating new software and design techniques to improve their design process and make buildings more comfortable and efficient. Part of this new technique involves parametric modeling, using digital technology to test many more scenarios and variables than ever before possible, to optimize building comfort and performance.
When designing a building, the beneficial and detrimental impacts of the sun must be carefully balanced. Too much sun in the summer will dramatically increase cooling costs and size of mechanical systems, while too little sun in winter means missing out on the benefits of free heating. And throughout the year there is another dual challenge to maximize natural daylighting (eliminating our dependence on electric lighting) while not creating uncomfortable glare.
The new techniques incorporated into our design process include combinations of software that permit our teams to evaluate multiple options — and multiple energy impacts – simultaneously. As opposed to earlier methods, the workflow that Ranjit and Michael tested, using Rhinoceros, Diva and Grasshopper software is built around iterative and not static feedback. The benefit is that as building designs evolve more quickly, especially as engineering and construction teams are more closely integrated with the architectural design team.
The benefits of parametric modeling are not a panacea. New and sophisticated software allows many, many options to be studied using “parameters” that are embedded into the models. But too much data and too many options can be overwhelming. It still takes the trained eye and experience of an architects to knowingly limit variables and interpret findings.
These new tools and techniques explored will provide great benefits to our teams – and to the comfort and operating costs if the buildings we design. But in the end it is the intelligent conversations that the results engender with our clients and engineering partners that will have the greatest impact on our work.