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Ask the Innovator: How is Parametric Design Changing the Future of Cities?

IBI Group's Parametric Design Lead, Jason King, speaks with TH!NK about how parametric design elevates our work to new heights.



January 15, 2019

What is parametric design?

Jason King: Parametric design, as a practice, is flexible and fluid and its definition changes as it’s applied to different projects. The main difference with parametric design is that we’re able to use the processing power of the computer to make things much more efficient. Things that would take us months to do by hand, we can now do in a matter of seconds with computers.

Parametric design allows us to efficiently harness and make sense of data, and use this information to inform design. Data just fills databases unless you know what to do with it.

How is parametric design being applied within IBI?

IBI is applying parametric design in a lot of different ways. We’re using it as both a large-scale planning tool (i.e. finding the best alignment for a transit network), and as a focus-area planning tool (exploring best density for a transit-oriented development). We’re also using it to design buildings that reflect an expression of rules or constraints, such as specific shadow guidelines. The tool is also being applied within our transportation department and even within finance and HR.

Moving forward, data and parametric design can be the threads that connect our Intelligence, Buildings, and Infrastructure sectors together.

Are digital tools changing what it means to be an architect, planner, or designer?

That’s an argument that’s been going on for a long time. I don’t believe that abstinence is a good way to teach people anything. It shouldn’t be pencils and paper vs. computer; just use all the tools that you have correctly and efficiently to deliver the best product that you can.

You could manually do 5000 different equations to inform some sort of design but it’ll take a month. You would never design this way because it’s not efficient, especially if you’re paying someone by the hour. Because computers can do that in a split-second, it allows us to think about things differently. Why not let the computer do what its good at so designers can do more of what they’re good at?

How will parametric design impact the future of our industry?

Traditionally we’ve always said: faster, better, cheaper- choose two. Now, the tools that we’re using are more efficient. Not only are we able to be faster, better, and cheaper, but to remain competitive we must deliver all three.

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