New layout studies for Generative Design in Revit

Computational Design

By David Smolker

Two new sample studies use grids to quickly generate room layouts aligned to social distancing guidelines.

Autodesk® Revit® 2021 debuted the ability to create generative design studies directly from the Revit ribbon with Generative Design in Revit. Three sample studies were included at debut: 3-Box Massing, View Optimization, and Workspace Layout, each giving users the ability to test, optimize, and validate design alternatives for some common design tasks. Three new samples studies are included with Release 21.6.0 (June 2020). They are available for subscribers to the AEC Collection and also to Dynamo for Revit users, who can access the Generative Design toolset in Dynamo. 

The three new studies — Randomize Object Placement, Rectangular Grid Object Placement, and Stepped Grid Object Placement provide greater capability in solving for the layout and orientation of objects within a space. The randomize study is useful in mimicking organic compositions, those you might expect to find in nature, while the grid object placement studies allow designers to very quickly set rules and see results for geometrically regular room layout studies, at any scale. You can read more about the randomize study in the Generative Design Primer.

In this post, we focus on the two grid studies and share examples of how they can be used to address safe distancing guidelines for two different use cases: an office environment and a small restaurant.

Room layout with the logic of the grid

Whether you’re looking to define the optimal placement of desks in an office, tables in a dining room, or kiosks in a convention hall: grids are efficient ways to coherently organize and divide space. The Rectangular Grid Object Placement Study and Stepped Grid Object Placement Study in Generative Design in Revit reduce the manual steps typically required to layout rooms in Revit — of individually selecting and placing objects, measuring distances, and of re-orienting or shifting objects around when grid parameters change.  

Both grid studies evaluate room layouts with the intent of maximizing the number of objects and the object area coverage, while minimizing the overlap between objects, and maintaining distances between objects and other room elements, such as walls, partitions, or circulation corridors. These studies allow you to balance dual objectives: 1) fitting as many desks, beds, tables, or other objects into a room as possible, while 2) keeping a set distance between these objects and the other features within the room. This balancing of multiple design objectives at once aligns well to the challenge of designing for social distancing and is a hallmark of generative computation.

[IMAGE: The studies return the total number of objects within the room, the percentage of the room area covered, and they identify overlap between objects. With Generative Design in Revit, study results can be populated directly into Revit as elements.]

Generative design and social distancing 

COVID-19 has disrupted the typical operation and function of virtually every place we inhabit, changed the way we think about space planning and interior design, yet, nonetheless, the logic of the grid gives designers a way to adapt to this new world. While a minimum of 6 feet between bodies is the social distancing guideline from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, employers and business operators are likely to consider how their spaces can work at even greater distances, and to rethink room occupancy and circulation paths. For these purposes, the grid studies are particularly well-suited.  

Take, for example, the following exercise examining desk layouts within a partitionable office space. Using Generative Design in Revit, the designer runs in sequence sample studies for Workspace Layout, Grid Object Placement, and Stepped Grid Object Placement, ultimately arriving at a design that meets social distancing guidelines, while balancing concerns related to occupant comfort, room circulation, and privacy. For a hands-on training on working with and customizing layout studies using Generative Design in Revit and also Dynamo, check out “Workspace Layout: Behind the Scenes,” now up on the Autodesk Knowledge Network..    

[VIDEO: In addition to the new grid studies, Generative Design in Revit offers a Workspace Layout study for developing room layouts that can be directly populated into Revit.]

Consider another example: the layout of a small restaurant

While the pre-COVID floor plan entails concentrating seating and packing patrons into a central dining area, the redesign leverages the Stepped Grid Object Placement study to maximize the number of tables in the same area, while keeping patrons seated at a distance of at least 6’ apart. Read more about this approach as part of the Revit “Have you tried” series, posted on the Revit blog and described in full instructional detail on the Autodesk Knowledge Network.

[IMAGE: Left — restaurant plan without social distancing // Right — restaurant plan optimized for social distancing]

The power of Generative Design in Revit in each of these examples is in how quickly, effortlessly, and with precision these studies can generate room layouts that actualize social-distancing guidelines. As such, a designer or space planner can quickly generate a field of compliant options, tweak variables to narrow in on the optimal results, and then select and populate directly into Revit the room layouts that best meet the functional criteria. And if these criteria change, rather than have to manipulate and measure the objects in the room to come up with new designs, the designer can simply re-enter the new criteria, and run the studies again to establish a newly compliant set of options.

While it is sometimes said that generative design can produce too many design options and too few design directions, when channeled through the logic of the grid especially, these two new generative design studies are fast and precise tools for discovering layout options that respond to social distancing guidelines. 

How do you see generative design helping address the design challenges posed by COVID-19? 

These new sample studies are one example of how tools in the AEC Collection can support AEC professionals in helping us all return to and reimagine the places we live, work, and gather. Room layout is one important factor, as is the way we move from place to place, and the way we design our building systems to better control for the risks posed by contagion 

We want to hear from you: what design challenges are you seeing in your design and engineering practices due to COVID-19? How might you use generative design or other technologies to address them? Hit reply in the comments and share your perspective. 

Want to learn more about using Generative Design in Revit with Dynamo?

Register for the upcoming AEC Collection Essentials webinar and learn how to use generative design workflows in taking collaborative approaches to informed decision-making.

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