Timber Structures

Design of Timber Structures in a Parametric Environment
Exploration of an alternative design process

Master of Science Thesis in the Master’s Programme
Architecture and Engineering

As awareness of the environmental and architectural benefits of building with timber increases, it becomes desirable for use in more complex projects, where demands on high performance require greater design adaptability, especially in early stages. This can be met by more closely integrating architectural, engineering and production requirements in new work flows from the concept stage of projects.

The shift from mass production to mass customization, from design of individual structures to the design of structural systems, is made possible by a parametric method where the design model is constantly evaluated according to several design criteria. The starting point of this Master’s thesis by LUKAS NORDSTRÖM and AGNES ORSTADIUS is the linear design process of timber production company Martinsons.

The aim is to propose a new work flow and to investigate how the use of a parametric design platform in early stage design can change and improve the overall design process. The vision is a concept design platform which can handle complex geometry and lets the model be informed by live updated structural analysis, material properties and production limitations.

Together with a general knowledge of stuctural systems and familiarity with production conditions this tool will allow a much greater adaptability early in the design process, helping to avoid costly late phase changes.

In this thesis 3D-modelling software Rhinoceros and its parametric plugin Grasshopper are used, linked to the FE-analysis program Oasys GSA to exemplify a parametric work flow. A new design process in a parametric environment is explored through a series of tests, including complex geometrical modeling, global structural analysis using bar and beam elements, detailed mesh analysis, combining local and global analysis and geometrical modelling with implementation of physical material testing and production limitations.

It is found that although the tools used are fairly new and untested, they are already a powerful alternative to existing processes in the concept stage of design. A parametric design platform does not autogenerate design solutions and should not be seen as a replacement for design competence.

Rather, it is a tool to help designers extract the potential of computer capacity, in processor-heavy tasks such as defining and generating complex geometry or analysing multiple structural solutions. With this expanded capacity of the parametrical environment in terms of both design and production, the imagination and skill of the designer become the only limitations.

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