Interview with Zigmund Rubel, Chief of Building Services, Aditazz

1. Q) Computation seems integral to the work that Aditazz do, and a critical differentiator to other design firms. Could you give a couple of examples of how Aditazz work differently to integrate computation into every day work?

We feel our unique differentiation is having in-house software developers sitting with designers to understand our needs for the tools to function in the AEC space. Computers do not act like humans and the invaluable dialogue that occurs between our building designers and the software developers in the translation of human requirements to machine requirements. I think what makes Aditazz unique in that we have almost a 1-1 ratio of domain experts (Architects, medical planners, engineers, builders and medical doctors) to software developers. This allows us to have deep conversations of what the different facets of computation are needed in the design world.

The uniqueness of Aditazz culture is where a building designer can express a design need and the software developer can consider the solution in their mathematical perspective and propose a solution that might’ve not been obvious to the building designer. Specifically, there are simple utilities, like search and replace functions of content, that is hard to do in the native design software, but can be scripted by a software developer in simple abstract programming language.

2. Q) What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the wider adoption of computational design? Why aren’t these methods already common practice?

I think there may be three main reasons and a host of ancillary challenges. First is cultural resistance to those beholden to current methods. There are many talented designers that are great at what they do and are not ready to step into a new medium that might radically change the way they approach design. Asking a machine, computer, to design forces you to think differently. This is a frightening proposition for some. Along with the cultural challenge is the lack of clear path to monetizing the investment because computational design might take a different amount of time yet provide tremendous more value. How does the designer get compensated for the value instead of the “X” number of hours that they spent using the computer? Last, and not least, is the lack of standardization to use computers for design thinking. The design is as much art as it is science. Computers can easily tackle the science part, but also need to address the art part. Now imagine that each building type or system has a different set of computational design needs. Because the problem set appears to be infinite, the adoption of computational design is being taken on in bits and pieces. When a larger amount of scope of computational design is reliably processed by a machine we will see more standards and more adoption.

3. Q) In your experience, what is the most common mistake that other design firms of project partners make when leveraging computation for the first time?

I think we have a significant interoperability and level of development communication challenge. Until we can operate on a single model or platform, we will continue to not know where our design team members are at with their scope of the design. Today, we might say we’re done. And to me, I truly believe I’m done. But to the person who is coordinating my design, it might not meet their needs nor might all the requirements be developed in my design. Until we can have more transparency in the computational design process we will continue to have this challenge, which causes many mistakes.

4. Q) What is the most convincing example you have to prove the business case for computational design? Do you have any projects where design optimization, cost, speed or some other metrics has been measurably improved?

Several of our projects have been able to reduce the cost of the project by showing how the function of the building can still be performed with a smaller physical area. In some of those cases, the experience to the customer is improved within the smaller building because they’re able to spend less time waiting on individuals and spend more time with the primary purpose of why they went to the building. Specifically, our business does a lot of Healthcare projects. If you’re able to build a smaller project, see the same number of patients as a larger building, and those patients are in the healthcare building for less time with more time with their doctor, we think that is a success.

5. Q) The advancement of computation is clearly linked to technology, such as the development of design software. What do you think is the next big technological leap that we should be planning for? What will the tools be able to do in a couple of years, which cannot quite be achieved today?

I think today our industry drives computational design by manual input. We’ve yet to leverage the power of computation and automation. In the coming years, maybe more than two, we will be able to ask the computer a question and it will find the answer. For example, we can search specific questions on the internet at a scale that keeps on changing. When we design today, it is largely a manual process, even with scripting. I’m hoping that we will soon be able to ask the computer to generate the solution within a boundary of solutions. There has been some prototypes of this done, but it is not main stream yet.

6. Q) What are you hoping to achieve from attending and presenting at Advancing Computational Building Design 2017?

I’m really excited to see all the other presentations. I believe computational design is a movement and the presenters at the conference are shakers, making the change that needs to occur. All the presenters will be sharing their knowledge and how it has added value to their business. Everyone’s presentation will not be as inspiring as others, but they will all be advancing the notion of how computational building design can be done. For my presentation, I’m looking forward to showing our successes, challenges and hearing the audience’s thoughts about what we’re doing. Everyone in the conference is a pioneer and it is important that we get feedback on what we’re presenting.


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