Back in March last year, I launched Parametric Monkey as a digital design consultancy to help AEC businesses across the globe to not just do things better, but to do better things. Since then, we’ve received overwhelming support from the industry. This support has only strengthened our resolve that digital design tools play a vital role in improving the way buildings are designed, built and operated.
What has become crystal clear to us is that an industry-wide cognitive shift is underway. Companies are no longer satisfied with simple operational efficiency gains but are wanting to push the limits of digital design tools. We’ve been amazed, and at times overwhelmed, by the ambitiousness of our clients who have pushed us further into the rabbit hole of what technology, coupled with strategy, cultural change and skills development, can achieve. Whether this has been initiated through increased awareness or aggressive marketing from Autodesk is unknown. But the desire to engage with advanced technologies like generative design, machine learning and file-to-factory fabrication is real.
These past 18 months have flown by, so quickly in fact that we didn’t even celebrate our first birthday! So we thought we would take the time now to share and reflect on what we’ve been up to and where we are headed.
BILT ANZ 2018
Last May we gave two presentations at the BILT ANZ conference in Brisbane. ‘Computational Design 101’ presented a brief history of computation and a glossary of computational terminology, with attendees gaining an insight into the various algorithms frequently used to solve design problems. ‘Data liberation: Using Dynamo to automate standardisation’ addressed pertinent issues facing AEC professions today around standardisation of naming protocols. By harnessing Dynamo, attendees learnt how to expose and manipulate elemental data and use this to drive various naming conventions.
UDIA Urban Icon
Last August, we were shortlisted for a A$50k grant from the Urban Design Institute of Australia (UDIA). The research proposal titled ‘Machine learning of multi-residential spatial planning’ looked at innovative and novel ways to address Australia’s housing crisis through the exploration of machine learning as a design methodology.
Last November, we attended the inaugural ParaGuru symposium in Melbourne. We presented our talk, ‘Solar access planning compliance: Building quantitative performance design solutions for multi-residential developments’. The talk looked at how one could embed detailed environmental analyses into a model before generating the design to speed-up compliance verification.
In May we launched a preview of MetricMonkey, Parametric Monkey’s feasibility software. The software enables architects, urban designers and property developers to evaluate designs in real-time via an interactive dashboard. MetricMonkey focuses on augmenting, rather than replacing human capabilities so that the designer is always in control. The software received overwhelming interest globally, and we are continuing to develop and commercialise the software for release early next year.
Back in August, UTS Central opened to the public. Parametric Monkey was commissioned to provide parametric modelling and design-to-fabrication services for the library’s sun shading system. Parametrically derived via a set of rules, the sun shading system consists of 108 unique bays, manufactured primarily from folded aluminium components. The project is an exemplar of how an architect’s design intent can be maintained through the use of material-specific design solutions, parametric modelling and digital fabrication.
The workflows and lessons learnt from the project were shared at various industry events including: SYDBIM; the Brisbane Computational Design Group; and, BILT ANZ where our talk titled, ‘Digital fabrication: Bridging the gap between concept & construction’ received the #3 top speaker award. It’s great to see so much interest from the industry in moving beyond BIM into digital fabrication.
Dynamo Package Development
We’ve been busy building custom Dynamo tools for our clients to improve operational effectiveness. Operational effectiveness is important because it improves both productivity and profitability. Some of our favourite tools in the collection are:
- Stair documentation – This node automatically generates annotations for stairs, both in plan and section. It creates dimensions, number systems, spot elevations, stair run tags and minimum clearance zones.
- Create marketing plans – This node creates floor plans for each apartment, rotates the view, places them on a sheet, and updates the key plan and north point.
- Views from sun – This node generates a series of 3D views based on a time period. It now also includes support for daylight savings time (DST) and sun settings to match the date/time of the view.
When parametricmonkey.com was first launched back in 2014, it aimed to accelerate computational literacy within architectural design. Over the years, we discovered that one of the most effective ways to share knowledge was via workshops. However, all too often, workshops are poorly defined and executed due to a lack of awareness about how people actually learn. In our blog post, Learning to learn for architects, we discussed how workshops could be structured for maximum gain, but also how learning can be used to reduce stress. We’ve been using these techniques with our clients to improve both engagement and information retention.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve been working with our clients to define their digital transformation strategy. A big part of this process are the workshops we’ve been facilitating to align visions, identify innovation opportunities, and define an innovation system. Over the next coming weeks, I’ll be posting more about this process and how companies can manage change and avoid cognitive biases when investing in innovation.
So What’s Next?
We’re excited about where we are headed and the projects we have in the pipeline. We’ve made many inroads in closing the gap between buildings and technology. But there is still so much more that can be done. Soon we will be expanding, which will allow us to be even more agile and create more integrated solutions for our clients. And we will be reinvigorating our tutorials page with a bunch of new content. Design technology in the AEC industry is a fast-changing world, and there are so many new softwares and technologies to keep up with. So out with Flux and Fractal, and in with Rhino Inside and Wallacei! And of course, we’ll be continuing our commitment to elevating the discourse, so that we don’t just do things better, we do better things.