Generative design for AEC

By Anna Liza Montenegro | BIM

Imagine you are planning the interior for an office building. In one scenario, your first step is to define the design parameters by describing the amount of light you want for desks depending on the season, the desired views for conference rooms, and the maximum amount you want to spend for construction. After you define the criteria, your design tools generate all the best possible outcomes with a single analysis and evaluate the alternatives. This all takes place in a fraction of the time that it normally takes you to manually arrive at one or two best-guess approximations.


In the other scenario, you sit down and manually calculate how your design parameters impact other aspects of the office building like energy loads and construction costs. You tediously go through the hundreds of location variables—kitchens, bathrooms, desks, or communal space placements—produced by your choices as the design develops. This entire process takes days or weeks as you review the options.



What is generative design?

How might it change the way you design if, like in the first scenario, your software could help discover the implications of the goals you define instead? Now think about a typical construction project and shift your approach to the actual procedure of building—and not just what you’re building, but how it is built.


Cost overruns and waste are always the enemies of construction. What if you could mitigate these potential risk factors with better recommendations on materials or by scheduling and sequencing job site work? What is the right strategy for placing precast concrete panels? Or the optimum placement of a crane? A software algorithm can test numerous scenarios for potential solutions to find the best one.


These are the objectives of generative design; a technique that uses computation to augment the designer’s ability to define, explore, and choose alternatives through automation.

Generative design   / gen·er·a·tive de·sign/    noun
A goal-driven approach to design that uses automation to give designers and engineers better insight so they can make faster, more informed design decisions.

Your specific design parameters are defined to generate many—even thousands —of potential solutions. You tell the software the results you want. With your guidance it arrives at the optimal design along with the data to prove which design performs best.


Generative design is more than a methodology; it embodies many applications and techniques. It will continue to grow more potent and useful with technological advancements such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. But, at its heart, generative design is about providing practitioners with the ability to quickly explore, optimize, and make informed decisions to complex design problems.


Think of generative design software as an assistant that helps with creating, testing, and evaluating options.

And it may well provide scenarios you might have never imagined, allowing you to do even more with less—whether that’s less time or resources. But, ultimately, it’s up to you to make the decision of what’s right for your project and the priorities.

While all of this may sound wildly futuristic, generative design is already changing how decisions are made during all phases of the design and construction process. Here, we’ll explore what generative design means to the AEC industry.


What is Generative Design in Revit?

Generative Design in Autodesk Revit is a new feature now available through the AEC Collection with Revit 2021. Now you can quickly generate design alternatives based on your goals, constraints, and inputs to give you higher-performing options for data-driven decision making.

What is generative design used for?

Generative design is used to provide practitioners the ability to quickly explore, optimize, and make informed decisions to complex design problems. Think of generative design software as an assistant that helps with creating, testing, and evaluating options.


What goes into a generative design process?

Generative design allows for a more integrated workflow between humans and computers. This workflow involves the following stages:

1. Generate

This is the stage when design options are created or generated by the system, using algorithms and parameters specified by the designer.

2. Analyze

The designs generated in the previous step are now measured or analyzed on how well they achieve goals defined by the designer.

3. Rank

Based on the results of the analysis, design options are ordered or ranked.

4. Evolve

The process uses the ranking of the design options to figure out in which direction designs should be further developed or evolved.

5. Explore

The designer compares and explores the generated designs, inspecting the results based on their original criteria.

6. Integrate

After choosing a favorite design option, the designer uses or integrates this design into the wider project or design work.



Generative design empowers the AEC industry with new and potent capabilities.

While an algorithm is still just an algorithm, only a human is going to decide what problem to solve, what goals must be achieved, and what factors are most important to solve a problem.

Computers can help organize and prioritize those decisions but can’t actually make them—only people can decide what’s important. Generative design gives architects, engineers, and builders new freedom to design and make a better world.


How do you get started with generative design?

Get started with Generative Design in Revit, available in Revit 2021 to all users with a subscription to AEC Collections, as well as EBA customers. Assign users through Autodesk Account and then access the feature through the Manage tab in Revit. Single-product subscribers running Revit 2021 can access and build on the code through Dynamo for Revit and use it to create custom design studies using Revit data and geometry.


Get Started


INDUSTRIES: Architecture, Buildings, Interior Design

Published on November 11, 2021 in BIM.

About the Author

Marketing Director in New York via San Francisco and Manila. Anna Liza is a trained architect and inspired by technology. A fan of traveling, slow food movement, and summers in Maine with her kids. She has been with Microsol since 2004.