What is Parametric Design?

Parametric is a term used in mathematics, where para means "beside" and meter comes from metron which means "measure". Parametric define a particular system by identifying a feature, characteristic or measurable factor in that system. 

What is Parametric Design?
Beijing National Stadium, 2008

For better understanding, a parametric equation is defined by the relation between parameters and variables. For example, a line defined by X and Y values is represented as Y= AX + B; Here, X is a variable, while A and B are parameters.

Let's elaborate in simple ways on what is parametric design, and its basic concepts with the help of a few real-time parametrically designed structures. 

What is Parametric Design in Architecture?

Now, as you are clear about what is parametric. Parametric design in architecture can be elaborated as a design approach that generates geometric solutions based on a family of related parameters. Parametric modeling is performed in parametric design software.

Parametric is hence referred to as "input parameters fed into the algorithm". Here, the parameters defined and the respective rules are fed into certain algorithms to determine the relationship between the design intent and the design response. 

What is the Basic Concept of Parametric Design?

In parametric design, instead of designing directly, the architectural elements are shaped based on algorithmic processes. Here, the model is created or generated automatically rather than through manual manipulation.

In parametric modeling, the algorithms or rules create a relationship between different elements of the design. For example, if an algorithm is created: Walls must start from the floor and end at the underside of the ceiling. If in case of the ceiling height changes, the wall must automatically adjust to suit the algorithm.

A few examples of parametric algorithms or rules created are the relationship between walls and the pitched roof, or relationship between floor area and the size of windows, etc.

A parametric model is the final representation of all the algorithms that the user has defined to create the model. The same algorithm might be used throughout the model. This helps to reflect any changes in a particular rule or algorithm to be reflected throughout the model.

Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi

Examples of Parametric Model and Design

Example 1: Beijing National Stadium, 2008

The stadium was designed with special parametric modeling software to develop a bowl geometry that can be optimized for athletics and also for football after the Olympics.

Beijing National Stadium, 2008
Beijing National Stadium, 2008

Example 2: Shanghai Tower

Shanghai Tower was developed parametrically using the parametric modelling software called the Grasshopper to enable the relationship between form and wind loads.

Parametric Design in Structural Analysis

Parametric modelling is used in structural analysis to process complex geometric algorithms or rules like:

  • determination of panel layout of curvilinear forms
  • determine the algorithm for fabrication

Parametric Design in Building Information Modelling (BIM)

BIM also has introduced some amount of parametric modelling into the mainstream of building design. A BIM software defines objects. Parametric attributes like "colour" can also be attached to these objects. So, for example, if the color scheme of a building is changed, every object with that color attribute will also change. Dimensions, algorithms for forms, positional data, manufacturer's data, etc are some of the parametric attributes.


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