News from AU
June 5, 2019

Design Automation: Conversations with Innovators

Design automation—the term means different things to different people, even within the worlds of architecture, engineering, and construction. For some, it’s a way to reduce costs and accelerate schedules. For others, it’s a way to build shapes that might otherwise be impossible.

The truth is that design automation is both of these and more. It can mean a way to analyze the geometry of each floor of a building design to determine the optimal connections between columns and slabs. It can mean programming a CNC machine to execute commands created through generative design. It can mean allowing the computer to complete repetitive tasks for you, freeing time and focus for increased creativity.

"If you have something that is mundane and tedious that you do every day, you can automate it." —Nidhi Sekhar, Senior Computational Designer, LERA

At AU 2018, we sat down with Nidhi Sekhar, senior computational designer at global architectural firm LERA, and Wayne Perciful, a consultant specializing in drafting design management for energy companies, to get their thoughts on design automation today and where they see it going in the future. Here's what they have to say.

The power of repeatability

Enabling designs to be repurposed is a key benefit of design automation. Work done for one project can be repurposed for another. AI can drive the updates after the vision is established by the architect, saving time and money.

“With [design automation], you can take facilities that you’ve done previously and automatically create a brand-new facility from it,” Perciful says. “You’ll still need to do work, but you’ll just need to edit an existing design.”

This kind of automation has an additional benefit—it takes boring tasks off the to-do list. “If you have something that is mundane and tedious that you do every day, you can automate it,” says Sekhar. “Whatever investment of time you make now, it comes back tenfold.”

Check out this article for more from Sekhar: LERA Advances Engineering with Computational Design.

Getting to better

Perhaps the most important thing about design automation is that it enables better design. Guesswork goes out the window. Absolute precision becomes the norm. Tolerances shrink to millimeters, making possible designs that would otherwise be too complex. There’s almost nothing we can’t build. In this way, computation enables creativity and supports imagination.

“In the big picture, the industry is moving toward automation and artificial intelligence,” Perciful says.” But I don’t think that’s going to eliminate engineering or design. On the other hand, I do think that engineering and design are going to change. And I think everyone needs to get on the train.”

Related learning

Want to learn more about design automation? Check out these AU sessions:

Become a Legend in Your Industry with CAD Leadership

Wayne Perciful led an AU 2018 industry talk on discovering strategies for automation and protecting your intellectual property. Learn how to implement and maintain drafting standards with automation—and connect with your team to ensure a smooth transition.

The VDC Gauntlet: Using the Architecture, Engineering & Construction Collection for Virtual Design and Construction

Tony Sabat explores the potential and power of digital construction and project management within the AEC Collection. Discover how a VDC approach can mitigate risk and ensure project success—and how the AEC Collection works together to provide a seamless solution for VDC methods.

Revit Data on Forge—How Can the Design Automation for Revit API Help Me?

The Design Automation API for Revit can help manage BIM data challenges, and you can use these building blocks to automate your company workflows. Sasha Crotty walks you through the kinds of problems design automation can solve for your company and shares how to work with Revit data in the cloud.

2018 Architecture, Engineering & Construction Keynote

Nidhi Sekhar took to the main stage for the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Keynote at AU Las Vegas 2018. Check out her remarks (starting at 28:22 min.).