The design of a building involves professionals from several disciplines, starting from the conceptual design to the final design document. The entire process is rather complex in that it requires experts from different disciplines working together to transform their creativity, imagination and innovation as well as their formal knowledge and expertise into a great artifact.
After developers and architects have figured out the building type, occupancy, functional requirements, etc., engineers begin work on the structural design of the building usually in the preliminary design stage. This stage is generally unsupported or less supported by computer aids because preliminary design process requires creative interactions between many professionals and the process of the work has been ill-defined in the past. This dissertation reports on the development of a computer-based environment for the preliminary design of tall building structures.
The introduction of computer-aided conceptualisation allows us to think in terms of how to utilize computer tools effectively for the both conceptual and preliminary design stages of tall building design. The main idea presented here is to integrate a range of software systems, each of which can provide one aspect of support to the entire preliminary design process, into a design environment. The objective of this design environment is not to replace human creativity, but to stimulate it and to give guidance in arriving at feasible solutions. Under this environment, the designer's experience, creativity and innovation can be augmented and encouraged; the main tasks and activities performed during the preliminary structural design stage can be automated; moreover data exchange between the architectural design and the structural design can be made collaborative.
The main tasks of the traditional tall building preliminary structural design are summarized as follows: Architectural design constraints satisfaction and consistency assurance. Structural form selection; system and layout design. Major member size design and lateral stiffness design.
A framework for a computer-based design environment has been designed to provide computer support for the above three main tasks during the preliminary structural design stage. This framework is open so that useful methods, algorithms, modules and tools, etc. can be integrated into the system. Regardless of whether the functional modules or the tools are case-based systems, genetic algorithms, or expert systems, the interface is preserved inside the system. These integrated functional modules provide computer aid from different viewpoints for the above three main tasks in the preliminary structural design stage.
Based on the above framework, a computer-based design environment prototype named AutoDesign, which can support structural preliminary design scheme generation, design collaboration and design automation, has been developed. The modules inside this system include a design collaboration tool, a geometric modeling and modification tool, a case-based reasoning system, a member auto-grouping tool, a size automation tool and a structural behavior visualization tool. These tools and the corresponding modules have been integrated into the AutoDesign system to support the three major tasks mentioned above. The methodology, philosophy, idea and algorithm behind these modules and tools are introduced in some detail. Finally two examples are used to demonstrate the entire preliminary structural design process with the AutoDesign system. Results show that the AutoDesign system provides an initial satisfactory solution for the computer-aided preliminary structural design of tall buildings.
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