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Parametric modeling (or parametric design) is the creation of a digital model based on a series of computer-generated rules or algorithms, known as parameters. This process is a quantum leap in the world of architecture as it can help resolve visual, perceptive, material, and structural issues.

Parametric Modeling in Construction
Parametric Modeling
Image Courtesy: Arturo Tedeschi

The parametric designing process involves the generation of structural geometry of a project through parametric modeling techniques, which help determine the structural form and members. It then proposes suitable options in structural form, so the possible structural designs can be iterated to the architects.

The concept of parametricism originated as a result of the digital animation techniques in the mid-90s and is gaining popularity with the development of advanced parametric design. This technology has led to the creation of several curving, non-rectilinear engineering marvels in the last couple of decades. For example, the Beijing National Stadium used specialist parametric modeling software to develop a bowl geometry inspired by the Chinese-style ‘crazed pottery.’ Similarly, the Shanghai Tower was also constructed using the parametric modeling technique to create its double-layer facade systems.

Beijing National Stadium used specialist parametric modeling software
Beijing National Stadium
Image Courtesy: Peter23

How Does Parametric Modeling Work?

The parametric model or its elements are created automatically by internal logic arguments and are not manipulated manually. The fundamental aim of the process is to deliver architecture based on scientific calculations rather than intuitive and artistic ideas. It proposes that computers can calculate every factor of construction and produce a structure capable of displaying and responding to these factors.

The geometrical parameters are first entered into a design tool using computer processing to establish relations between these parameters. This process forms a hierarchy of possible variables, which can be used by designers to explore various potential designs.

As everything is being done with the tool, the chance of any human error can be taken out of the equation, minimizing manual repetitions. This saves a lot of time as architects don’t have to go through the trial and error stages of designing.

Parametric Modeling for Bridge Construction
Parametric Modeling for Bridge Designing
Image Courtesy: ALLPLAN Infrastructure

The parametric rules establish relationships between different elements of the design. For instance, a rule can be devised to ensure that the walls of a building must begin at floor level and reach the underside of the ceiling. Later, if any alterations are made to the floor-to-ceiling height, the walls will adjust automatically to suit the design. A number of such relationships can be incorporated between different elements of a structure, such as walls and a pitched roof, floor area and the size of windows, etc.

A model should employ the same algorithm throughout the project so that a change in a particular element will make necessary adjustments throughout the design.

Advantages of Parametric Modeling

  1. Since the application of parametric modeling requires a significant investment, the project team must analyze the benefit-cost ratio..
  2. Since the application of parametric modeling requires a significant investment, the project team must analyze the benefit-cost ratio. The process can lead to profit for the organization by the use of generative tools and ensuring it is reused and developed further from project to project.
  3. Visual Scripting allows users to create parametric models even with limited programming knowledge.
  4. The project data can be used throughout the entire process – from design through construction to implementation.
  5. The software is especially useful in the development of bridge models and making it easy to implement changes to the model. The existing framework conditions for the bridge can be transferred into a mathematical model to determine the optimal load-bearing structure, and after defining all the parameters, the bridge model is automatically created.
  6. Parametric tools are cloud-based, enabling the entire project to be stored on the cloud. This allows everyone to access the project and make adjustments, reshape it, comment on it, or add new information.
  7. Parametric modeling can help conceive flexible and magnificent designs. The asymmetry and structural chaos adds beauty to the overall structure, creating an aesthetically-pleasing piece of architecture.

Challenges to Parametric Modeling

One major criticism of parametric modeling is that it sometimes foregoes the requirement that a structure responds to the background of its site, i.e., in terms of topography, economics, local culture, etc. Several buildings designed using parametric techniques have been denounced for being capable of belonging anywhere with little-or-no connection to the specific area.

FAQs

What is parametric modeling?

Parametric modeling (or parametric design) is the creation of a digital model based on a series of computer-generated rules or algorithms, known as parameters.

How does parametric modeling work?

The geometrical parameters are first entered into a design tool using computer processing to establish relations between these parameters. This process forms a hierarchy of possible variables, which can be used by designers to explore various potential designs.

How is parametric modeling used for bridge designing?

The existing framework conditions for the bridge can be transferred into a mathematical model to determine the optimal load-bearing structure, and after defining all the parameters, the bridge model is automatically created.

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