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Introducing Overrides: Partnering with Design Automation

Article by Andrew Heumann

Building design tools keep getting smarter. Across the industry, design automation is starting to take off, as new tools emerge that automatically generate design solutions with built-in knowledge about project typologies, strategies, and constraints. At its best, automation can be an incredible project time-saver. Inevitably, every project needs to react to change — new site information, new requests from a client, changing material costs — and being able to change a few settings and instantly regenerate the design can make the difference between a profitable project and a loss.

When I started working as an architectural designer nearly a decade ago, the new generation of design automation tools weren’t available, so we had to build all the algorithms ourselves. I poured hundreds of hours into a custom tool for facade design, to save our team time studying alternatives. I incorporated a wide range of strategies, options, and performance metrics, and shared it with other designers on the team. Everything was great… until the client requested a small tweak to one part of the facade that my algorithm hadn’t anticipated. We were faced with two bad options: completely rework the algorithm to handle this tweak, or abandon the tool and make the changes manually, sacrificing all of our automated metrics and optimization.

That experience taught me an important lesson: no algorithm is perfect. No intelligent tool can foresee every possible design decision you might want to make. There’s an inherent trade-off between control and intelligence. Many of the new automation tools on the market compound this problem even further, since editing the algorithm isn’t even an option; you’re stuck with what came out of the box.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice intelligence or the power of automation if you want to make a manual adjustment. Imagine if your phone’s autocorrect didn’t let you delete the suggestions it made without disabling it completely, or if your car’s cruise control didn’t let you take over! The future of technology is productive partnership with automation — letting the machine do what it does best, so we can do what we do best. And that’s the idea behind a new capability on Hypar we’re calling Overrides.

Introducing Overrides

Hypar now has design Overrides. Overrides gives you the ability to intervene in an automatically generated result, without losing the intelligence of the system. If Hypar automatically placed a conference room at the end of the floor, you can relocate it to near the elevators, moving it like you would in any “less automated” design platform. And Hypar retains those changes when you rerun the automated solution, even if it has new settings. If the floor plate shape changes, or the corridor width changes, your relocated conference room will preserve its new position but continue to adapt to the changes around it. 

This is a new way to design with automation. It’s a back-and-forth. You plug in some options and constraints, Hypar’s intelligent systems come up with suggested solutions, and you can interactively select and adjust the design, adding more of your own specific decisions while Hypar regenerates the rest, respecting and reacting to the choices you’ve made. 

Our goal is to make automation a partner to the designer instead of a substitute. Hypar does the tedious rote work giving designers more time to make the decisions that truly matter.

Practical Applications

Let’s say you’re working on a tight project schedule and you need to produce an office layout with incomplete information from a PDF. You know that it’s not going to be accurate — a laser scan will produce precise dimensions once that's complete but you can’t wait for it to deliver the first proposal to the client. With Hypar you can move forward with incomplete and initially inaccurate information, knowing that you won’t have to start over when the new measurements arrive. In Hypar, as long as your changes are roughly the same place, the platform can adjust the design to the new dimensions preserving the vast majority of decisions, even when the whole building might be shifting in a hundred small ways.

These are the kind of tools I always wanted as a designer. Overrides change the computer into a design partner that takes care of the easy parts while letting building professionals concentrate where their expertise is really needed. With overrides, getting to viable designs is easier and faster, using a unique and powerful combination of automation and intervention to arrive at better building solutions.

Want to learn more about how Hypar can help automated design become a better partner? Contact us.

Article by Andrew Heumann

About Andrew Heumann

Prior to joining Hypar, Andrew was a Senior Researcher at WeWork, a Design Technology Specialist at Woods Bagot, and the leader of NBBJ's Design Computation team. He has written more than 20 plug-ins for 3D modeling software like Rhino and Revit, including the popular "Human" and "Human UI" plug-ins for Grasshopper. He has created many bespoke tools for design teams and practices, aiding in the management of project metrics, environmental and urban analysis, and facade design.