Automatic integrated structural design and optimisation in BIM

  • Tofigh Hamidavi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Despite the unprecedented permeation of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and availability of a wide range of collaboration platforms, architects and structural engineers, for the most part, act as separate teams. Therefore, linking architectural models with those of structural engineers remains a labour-dependent and a cumbersome activity. This research proposed potential solutions to improve the structural design processes at the early stages by integrating architectural and structural models and generating alternative structural models for the same architectural model automatically. The research proposed a framework and a proof-of-concept prototype, which used the architectural model and relevant parametric data as input to design and analyse different parametric structural models through an automatic process. This process helps to reduce the iterative structural design process and improve the collaboration between the structural engineers and architects through automation within the BIM platform. The research leveraged the importance of using automation in the structural design process and the collaboration between structural engineers and other disciplines, particularly with the architects.
The research started with an exploratory approach, using a comprehensive literature review to highlight the existing challenges in the structural design, analysis and optimisation processes, particularly at the early stages. Thereafter, based on the information received from the literature review a Conceptual Structural Design and Optimisation (CSDO) framework was developed to solve the identified challenges. In order to justify the research and validate the conceptual framework, an online questionnaire was distributed between professionally accredited structural engineers of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the American Society of Civil Engineers(ASCE). The questionnaire uncovered valuable information about the existing challenges, and potential solutions that justifies the research knowledge gap, and the information obtained helped to improve the framework. Thereafter, an extended framework was developed and aimed at improving the integration and interoperability between architectural and structural model in an automatic process in BIM. Hence, a proof of concept prototype was developed to demonstrate the workability of the extended framework. Various case studies demonstrated the workability of the prototype in different areas and type of structures. Finally, the proof of concept prototype was validated in several semi-structured interviews with the academic staff of the University of Portsmouth and chartered structural engineers in industry with civil and structural engineering backgrounds. Furthermore, a focus group was conducted with six domain experts from the Autodesk research and a development team to validate the prototype and receive feedback for further development and future work.
This research contributes to the field by presenting a novel solution, capable of automated generation of structural design, based on architectural models and design requirements (input data). This research provides a practical demonstration of a fully integrated architectural/structural design system. Moreover, this research contributes to the field by extending the outcomes of existing literature that proposed optimisation of structural design, albeit in one dimension, like shape, topology and size in structural design. The proposed framework and proof of concept prototype considers all the dimensions of the optimisation simultaneously and provides a valuable source of reference for future research in this area.
Date of AwardMar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorSepehr Abrishami (Supervisor) & David Begg (Supervisor)

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