Research areas

The BEMNext lab research programme focusses on a number of key areas (‘the four pillars’):

1. Design and Engineering Computing

Design and Engineering Computing’ is the field that deals with the development of new technology for the part of the lifecycle where design and engineering takes place. In contrast to current software approaches that usually have been built from a certain technology out (from matrix solving algorithms to FEM to a user interface), our proposition is that we apply user-centric design: we start by exploring what the values in the current process are driving the design as our proposition is that software based on these values (and their translation to software) have a higher chance of succeeding to successfully transform our industry.

Examples of themes in this research area:

  • Optimisation: Structural, Multi-disciplinary (MDO)
  • Parametric design systems
  • StructuralComponents

Optimisation: Structural, Multi-disciplinary (MDO)
An area where we perform research is optimisation. Or to be more exact, utilisation of optimisation for a variety of purposes. We use optimisation not only to find pure mathematical optima, but utilise optimisation to explore the design space. We use optimisation to solve challenges of trying to obtain a more sustainable world through more sustainable designs. In order to achieve this we have used and are constantly on the look-out for new optimisation technology, such as the classical methods, heuristic methods, evolutionary methods, Genetic Algorithms, Ant Colony Optimisation, Particle Swarm Optimisation, ESO, BESO, etc. We also experiment with new technology to generalise algorithms to a common process and integrate optimisation with other paradigms, such as parametric and associative design systems.

Parametric (and associative) design systems
Since parametric and associative design systems gained new popularity in the AEC industry around 2002-2004 with GenerativeComponents by Bentley Systems, and later Grasshopper by McNeel and Dynamo and DesignScript by Autodesk, we have been involved on the forefront of exploration of how to use the renewed capabilities of these systems in our industry. The people in BEMNext lab have influenced the direction of this software through their involvement in SmartGeometry and other conferences in this field and have made a large number of contributions in this area. We believe that parametric and associative design systems are far from having reached their full potential.

design logic and structural analysis for the design process. BIM software vendors have made propositions in the past but it can be proven that these have serious limitations, even fundamental flaws, in the support they provide to the design process.

2. Information Management

Information management is our second focal area in the BEMNext lab. The way we will handle our information and our knowledge through data and logic will be important for the transitions we can make in the future.

Currently, this topic has two themes we develop:

  • Building Information Modeling: BIM
  • From BIM to BIMNext

Building Information Modeling: BIM
Although the full focal area is not limited to BIM, it plays an important role as one of the research fields: we need to know what is currently available and on what technology it is based. In order to improve something you must know where you are coming from.

From BIM to BIMNext
Our roadmap towards BEMNext dictates that our outset is the current technology: Building Information Modeling or BIM. Our proposition is that this technology is great and when applied with care and sense can be easily adopted by (a part of) the current practice of the architecture, engineering and construction industry. However, our proposition is that the current technology of BIM lacks to support its own vision and that there are ‘missing links’. This field of research aims to find and resolve these links.

3. New IT infrastructure

The focal area of IT infrastructure technology aims to develop new generations of IT infrastructure that is required to reach the BEMNext vision.

Currently, two research projects are being performed that aim to develop a technology which steers development in the direction of BEMNext:

  • NetworkedDesign
  • Distributed optimisation infrastructure

NetworkedDesign is a next generation conceptual computational infrastructure that combines a large number of paradigms, such as parametric and associative design, rule-processing, optimisation, algorithmic design, single, bi- and multi-directional modeling, multiple representations, object-orientation, solving, and many more. It serves as a research framework in order to build future technologies and related research projects, such as the next generations of StructuralComponents and future experiments for BEMNext technology.

Distributed optimisation infrastructure
Our distributed optimisation infrastructure is a new research and development project which aims to provide easy-to-use optimisation on a very large scale (millions of explored solutions in the search space) with multiple objectives, multiple analysis back-ends, multiple optimisation drivers and multiple generative drivers to our research projects. Our future projects require such powerful infrastructure in order to optimise the problems at hand. Furthermore, it is an excellent experiment for future BEMNext technology as this will have similar challenges (and benefits) of scale.

4. Programmable Structures and Materials

Our vision for the research area of Programmable Structures and Materials is develop methods to produce materials which macro- and micro-scale behaviour which can be designed by the engineer to match intended or designed behaviour. We envision that multi-material digital manufacturing technologies (such 3D printing / additive manufacturing / robotic fabrication) in the future will allow us to place material exactly and only where it is needed to have a specific behaviour as a consequence. This behaviour can be structural, but also related to light, moist, air or temperature.

The research area focuses on developing methods to express and specify the desired behaviour and (semi)automatically generating and optimising the micro-scale of the material with simulated macro-scale behaviour as a consequence.