Hi everyone! This special (which means longer) episode (see YouTube video below) covers Generative Design software for architects – specifically four that I have used over the past year. I explore these different options for generative design software for architects to use right now. Each one has benefits and some challenges depending on what is required.
The four Generative Design options that we’re going to look at are;
- Spacemaker (now owned by Autodesk)
- Site Solve
- Skema (formally called Kreo)
I’m just going to run through what they look like, what they can do, how they work, some of the advantages and a couple of challenges with each one as a general introduction. This is not comprehensive but gives a flavour of what they are like.
In the future I may do more of a deep dive into these options, as well as explore alternatives as the market is expanding quickly for these types of tools. Hope you enjoy!
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Spacemaker is an intuitive, collaborative, cloud-based AI software that empowers architects, urban planners and property developers to design high-quality site proposals. Create 3D massing models of your site and its surroundings using automatic datasets. Test your site proposals and receive accurate analyses for 100+ criteria such as noise, wind, sun and micro climate. Streamline your early-stage planning and design workflows with intuitive tools and generative design.
Spacemaker is used to design, analyse and collaborate on high-quality proposals. With Spacemaker’s cloud-based AI software, you can carry out comprehensive feasibility studies and concept development for early stage planning. The web interface, controls and layout are all intuitive and is easy-to-use. The software scores highly in all areas except for the low controllability when importing an IFC file and the lack of UK mapping data.
One of the most interesting aspects of this software is the integration of analysis tools. These are very powerful at communicating the benefits of the scheme including;
• Sun and shadows
• Open space
• Outdoor area
• Micro climate
The accuracy of these tools will need further investigation, however as a Stage 1 tool to support sustainable decision-making from the outset they are very useful. The software allows the user to compare results quickly as an overview and communicates the relative difference in Gross Internal Area. There are also comparisons for the analysis, communicated with a colour bar which does not give easy to understand quantitative results. The report can be exported as a PDF only, limiting the easy use and adoption of this information. There is a good overview of options which can be compared together, however this can only be exported as a PDF file. This is a limitation that would benefit from an Excel format.
Spacemaker is a well-developed piece of software that has good functionality embedded within it – particularly the analysis options. The software performed well overall, scoring well in most sections. Level of detail of the proposals needs more work but at Stage 1 this may be sufficient before transferring to Revit for further detail to be added.
Rapidly understand the potential of your site. You can draw or use the in built optimisation engine to quickly generate ideas for your site. With the inbuilt engineering insight you can have greater confidence in the buildability of your ideas. You can rapidly explore different strategies to evaluate results. Whether you want to explore your mix strategy or test different height limits or densities, Site Solve believes it can help you. You can get instant feedback on criteria such as views, overshadowing, dual aspect or North facing apartments to drive how you evolve your designs. SiteSolve’s visual platform allows you to easily showcase your ideas to your stakeholders. You can easily tweak ideas live in meetings and show you’ve explored multiple options.
This software has performed well in terms of the user interface and simplicity of the work flow. The tools for defining the requirements are extensive and well designed, meaning that it is easy to refine and craft a solution based on specific requirements. The areas which are more challenging are the interoperability with Revit and IFC, currently only a DXF file can be exported. In addition to this, the exporting of CSV files is useful but is not well formatted when opened in Excel – however integration into a Power BI dashboard could ease this. This can collate all of the options into one spreadsheet for comparison alongside metrics such as GIA, GEA, etc. which is very useful.
The ability to create a concise report with images would improve the report by allowing an easier comparison between options to be created. Further customisation is possible to optimise the outputs, for example prioritising north facing, dual aspect, net area, total houses etc. This means that the designs can be iterated and the granularity of this increased based on the requirements. This is different from the other software tools, which do not have the depth of control that Site Solve appears to have.
Generative Design software for modular building concepts. Kreo Modular is AI powered software for Developers, Manufacturers, and Contractors who are involved in modular construction, and are looking to save time and money while improving the quality and speed of their feasibility assessment.
The software offers an interesting and slightly different prospect than the other options available. The integration with Revit will be powerful for users, and the web-based nature of the software and simplicity of the interface will be an advantage. The KREO interface is very simple and has limited functionality and options. It appears that further development is needed on this to make sure that it is comparable to other options. Some of the functionality is in its Beta phase and is not working as seamlessly as it could.
Revit compatibility appears to have been thought about and the interoperability is very high as it is able to export Revit 2019 files easily. The work flow is satisfactory however substantiating the unit mix is not very intelligent and the software struggled with complex forms. There are limited tools for free-form building creation and when converting a mass to an arrangement of apartments, the results were simplistic. The tools for mass editing and access to UK data were satisfactory, with further development in progress by the company.
Archistar helps property professionals complete time-consuming property research, feasibility assessment and building design work within minutes using ground breaking Artificial Intelligence. Archistar is a property platform that combines property research, feasibility assessment and building design work all in one. With Archistar’s planning, property data and building visualisations, it becomes easier to align building designs with government compliance rules. Learn and understand how planning controls directly impacts your development projects and proposed building designs, and bring more speed, certainty and transparency to the Development Approval process.
The Archistar interface is modern and highly intuitive, set within a browser. The process of learning and understanding the workflows does take some time as menus are hidden or require training to sequence correctly. There is a logical work flow from inception to completion for design options, and it is quick and easy to create alternative designs. The modelling solutions which are created are detailed and have convincing core locations and plan layouts. There are tools to manually define building layouts, however changing heights of the blocks is a little difficult. The software can export Rhino, DXF and gLTF files, but is unable to import any file formats. A serious limitation. When exporting files, Revit found it difficult to import very large complex models from Archistar. The performance of the software is very high and the level of detail that it provides is impressive.
In summary, it can be seen that each one of these options performs well in different ways. Each of the software do have areas of development that are required to increase the quality and flexibility of these tools. Generative design software at the early stages of use is here to stay and there are a number of options which are expanding very quickly in this area. For users, it will be really important for them to confirm exactly what they are looking for from a particular software to ensure that they choose the right one for their needs.
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