I presented at CIBSE Technical Symposium 2015

Last week I presented a software tool I have been developing in collaboration with Smart Space at BuroHappold called SmartBuildingAnalyser. CIBSE Technical Symposium is a meeting of academic and industrial developments which aim to look at the latest advances in tools and methodologies for the many aspects of building environmental design. This year, the conference was held at UCL in London.

James Ramsden presenting SmartBuildingAnalyser at CIBSE Technical Symposium 2015

Presentation abstract

The paper and presentation set out the problem of the complexity and contradictions that arise as we try to design the ‘perfect’ building. I attempted to argue that, since there is no such thing as a perfect building, trade-offs are inevitable, and that the best way to get the best combination of trade-offs is to have a better understanding of how different options perform. Currently the tools available for ‘optioneering’ are not powerful enough to generate this data for a wide range of options in a reasonable amount of time.

SmartBuildingAnalyser is a collection of components currently under development for Grasshopper that help to leverage the power of Grasshopper for the specific task of streamlining the parametric building design and analysis process. In the presentation, I showed how these components generated options for a number of projects in BuroHappold to expose how the sensitivity of building performance with respect to the changing of certain design parameters.

Many of the posts on this site, especially the ‘hints and tips’ style posts on Grasshopper, were written as part of the various pieces of development towards SBA. I’m still a fair way off a public release of SBA, but it’s well on its way, and hopefully the presentation will have generated enough interest to provide the links necessary for further work.

How did it go?

I have given a small number of presentations before as part of my work, mostly internal to BuroHappold but most notably to COLEB in ETH, Zurich last year. The CIBSE presentation was, by quite a margin, the most significant and impactful presentation I have given to date – I was fortunate to have an enthusiastic and prolific audience of perhaps 50 delegates. While it was rather intimidating when waiting to give my speech, I needn’t have worried – the audience were receptive and were keen to pass on their feedback and discussion points later on in the day. (Thank you to everyone who did this – your feedback and insights are very valuable to me!)

Every experience like this is a learning process, and especially at this CIBSE event where most participants aren’t programmers of any description, it’s good practice to learn to explain my work in an accessible way. One key failing is that I didn’t quite explain where in the design process my tool lies. The gap in software I have identified is in the transition between concept and detailed design stages. I am not trying to compete with ‘architect’ conceptual tools such as Sefaira or Vasari, nor have I developed a tool that provides the level of detail (and associated time cost) of detailing that comes with Dynamo, but I am aiming for the space between, where the design has progressed to the point where engineering questions are being asked of a building where the form is still still subject to a significant amount of uncertainty.

Download paper and presentation

I have uploaded the paper to academia.edu.

The full presentation with videos is available from this site here.

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