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  • chaithanya ganesh

Role of Grasshopper and Simulation Based Software for Green Building Designs and Analysis

As the years go by and sustainable approaches become the need of the hour, architects are faced with the challenge of adapting new approaches. Enter the green building, a building that is environmentally responsible and resource efficient through both its structures and its building processes. To make a green building, a crucial step is to clearly understand the design problem and the environmental factors affecting it. Data visualization and advanced studies can also be used to better enable understanding.

Here, we introduce design decision support tools. These tools have been developed keeping in mind the requirements of certain design processes. The uptake of these tools by architects, however, is very limited, considering that some are too complex and don’t fit in with the working method.

There are primarily two types of these tools. Design tools provide a base for developing the design (SketchUp, Revit, Rhino) and simulation tools like EnergyPlus provide energy and environmental analyses. In addition, there are several plug-ins for these tools.

The framework of the simulation plugin for the design tool (Simulation-Based Decision Support Tools in the Early Design Stages of a Green Building—A Review, Tian Han, Qiong Huang, Anxiao Zhang and Qi Zhang)
A Review by Tian Han, Qiong Huang, Anxiao Zhang and Qi Zhang

The image depicts a framework of the simulation plugin for the design tool (Simulation-Based Decision Support Tools in the Early Design Stages of a Green Building)

These plugins and tools have helped architects model and calculate as they go. Environmental Simulation Tools (ESTs) allow us to handle the complexity of today's buildings, coupling the building’s design factors such as orientation, massing, materials, etc. with digital design to simulate its environmental performance.

Some firms have leveraged the power of ESTs and other computational design tools to explore new horizons of innovative conceptual designs. Creating geometries that respond to the analysis and understanding of environmental data, they open up new possibilities for form- and space-making. This results in an enriching of the quality of projects, helping architects develop and implement more sustainable solutions.

ESTs and modelling tools have a huge impact on a building’s identity and language. Form finding or parametric optimization can be achieved through the use of plug-ins of said tools, the most well-known of which is Grasshopper, a parametric design plugin for Rhino, which is one of the most widely used platforms by designers. These tools generate optimal massing or façade shapes when performance objectives and their geometrical relationship are input, providing more design options. These are particularly useful as environmental performance targets can be defined by the designer, allowing for adaptability of the shapes of buildings to site and climate specific conditions.

Image via Grasshopper 3D

Among these, the Rhino/Grasshopper platform aims primarily at geometric design and has risen through the popularity ranks for its parametric settings. The platform allows for non-experts to utilize its functions through simple code learning that they can modify according to their own requirements, making it a very popular tool to use in early design phases. There are already a number of environmental plugins developed for Rhino/Grasshopper such as Ladybug and Honeybee.

Learning and utilising ESTs enables us to optimize and support decision making in the early design stages, while also helping illustrate and quantify the energy influence of design elements so as to ensure we comply with various environmental goals. The software has come far, allowing us to obtain different parameters’ influence on energy without waiting for the final simulation result. ESTs are leading the way to a greener architectural future for architecture, and we are here for the ride.


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