Getting Started with Project Refinery

Emily Bisaga Dunne Emily Bisaga Dunne August 4, 2019

3 min read

Do you want to learn how to optimize your architectural designs to meet your design goals? Our beta software Project Refinery will allow you to do just that by harnessing the power of Generative Design.

Generative design lets you create and evaluate many more design options than you could using manual methods and simultaneously explore those options against competing criteria. 


Our featured Generative Design application is called Project Refinery – sign up to try out Project Refinery from our Generative Design for AEC website here. 

To use Project Refinery effectively, I recommend running Revit (our BIM tool) including Dynamo for Revit (our computational design tool) as well. 

Once on the Project Refinery Beta web page, you will be able to review Refinery demos for truss and panel optimizations. You’re also able to read through the helpful Getting Started guide and test out the Building Design Surface Area and Volume Optimization graph – this graph is mentioned in Getting Started and in the Refinery Sample Files as 3 box volume surface area.dyn. You can download the most recent samples under “Download samples here” and get started with testing.  

Let’s take a look at running a graph in Project Refinery. From Revit, go to the manage tab, then select Dynamo to Launch Dynamo for Revit.  

Then navigate to the downloaded samples file and open the file called “ 02-3BoxVolumeSurfaceArea.dyn” to review the Building Design Surface Area and Volume Optimization graph. 

This graph was developed with a goal of discovering the maximum volume (to maximize rentable area) and the minimum surface area (to minimize the expense of the façade design. The variables in the study are the locations of two boxes and the height of all three. Let’s flex the inputs in the Dynamo graph to see how the geometry changes manually.  

Now that we have tested the graph manually, we’ll select Refinery > Launch Refinery to get started. There are two run types to explore when getting started in Project Refinery – the first is Optimize and the second is Randomize.  

When you select optimize as the generation method, Project Refinery uses a multi-objective optimization approach where the optimal solution is refined over series of generations for the defined population size. You decide the population size and also the number of generations for optimization – Project Refinery shows you the optimal solutions based on your design criteria.  

When you select randomize as the generation method, Project Refinery will show your design options resulting from random input values within the range. You can review these random results for design ideas and preferences and filter these results to see where they land in the performance scheme of your design.  

Once you have identified an ideal design that meets your criteria – in this instance maximum volume and minimum surface area – take note of the input values for the Dynamo graph.  

You can further develop your Dynamo graphs to go a step beyond analysis and drive geometry creation in Revit. In this example, the graph is developed to create floors that correspond to the input from our ideal optimized solution.  

Once the framework for the building design is translated into the Revit environment, you can move forward with linking in context, developing the envelope and structure and even send your Revit file to Autodesk Cloud Rendering for quick and compelling design development studies.  

Revit, Dynamo for Revit, Project Refinery and Autodesk Cloud Rendering make a powerful toolkit for early stage design, weaving together computation, optimization, analysis, building information modeling and visualization for compelling architectural designs.  

If you’re interested in developing your own graphs after testing the Project Refinery sample files, I recommend reading through the Dynamo Primer, then reaching out on the Dynamo BIM forum with more detailed technical questions and for guidance.  

We look forward to seeing your ideas realized! 

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