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New Parametric workflow based on validated day-lighting simulation
Building Simulation Cairo 2013
A. Wagdy Mohamed Ibrahim
Politecnico Di Milano, Milan, Italy
* Corresponding author. Tel: +39 3932694435, Mob: +2 01001036090, E-mail:
Abstract: Daylight can reduce the need of artificial lighting only if the architecture design allows it to happen
with right quantity, but the problem is that architects use the simulation software at the end of design process.
In order to get the real benefits of simulation process, the simulation results should be used as the main driven
tool for the design process. This process could not be done just using one type of software, it is a complex
workflow which starts from creating a 3D dynamic model that can be modified without regenerating the 3D
model each time, followed by connecting it with validated daylight simulation tool to ensure the correct analysis
results. These results are evaluated to give us a numerical and visual feedback after being processed by
optimization algorithm which automatically adjusts different variables in order to get better simulation results
which eventually will prove that we are going towards more optimized solution.
The author proposes a new tool which will help the architects to find the best day-lighting solution for any kind
of buildings. Because this tool finds the optimal dimensions for each opening in automatic way to ensure the
daylight quality inside the space, as well as it becomes much more efficient than if they would try other different
random solutions manually. This paper shows a new parametric workflow which runs in automatic mode without
the need to export or import the 3D modeling information between each type of software to have totally
automatic optimization process.
Keywords: Parametric, Optimization, Daylight, Simulation, Grasshopper, Radiance, Evaluation.
1. Introduction
The proposed approach is developed by
using the daylight simulation as the main
driven tool for the design development, and
it will show the benefits of using the
parametric tools in the architecture design
process in order to achieve a specific
daylight quality, then it explains the logic
behind combining a validated analysis tool
together with a parametric modeling tool in
order to develop a close loop process
between design and simulation which
optimizes the architecture design based on
the daylight requirements.
1.1. Daylighting
Successful daylighting arrangement would
enhance the architecture quality, keeps the
occupants healthy and reduce the energy
consumption of the artificial lighting [1].
Recently, daylighting simulation tools have
been developed to help designers evaluating
the daylight performance of their proposals
on the early design phase, because at this
phase, designers could take major design
decisions related to daylight quality and
make the required adjustments to receive
better feedback of their design proposals,
however these tools couldnt achieve yet a
total integration with design platforms [2].
1.2. Parametric environment
Parametric tools are relatively new to
architecture design process because it is
based on the ideas of exploring design
variations, by using this method, the
computer will generate many designs
variations between the predefined ranges
which satisfy particular conditions. These
rules and constrains usually involving
numerical data and mathematical operations
in order to control the properties of a
generative model which could be manually
or automatically based on optimization
algorithms to accomplish a precise
performance objective.
The main benefit of using this type of
software is the high ability of making
modification on any parameters such as
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geometry shape and size without the need
for recreate the entire model each
modification, many architects and designers
prefer to explorer complex ideas at the early
stage of design solution with relative easy
way of modeling it.
1.3. Required Softwares
To follow this workflow, some software
needs to be installed: Rhino, Grasshopper,
and Geco plugins. Grasshopper is a free
downloadable plugin for rhino users. Geco
is an add-on for Grasshopper by [uto] and
can be downloaded from the food4rhino
website for free. You will also need a copy
of Autodesk Ecotect Analysis. A student
version of Ecotect can be downloaded from
Autodesk website. Finally, you will need
Radiance Desktop software which is also
available for download.
1.3.1. Grasshopper
Grasshopper which was developed by
David Rutten in 2007 is a parametric
modeling plug-in for Rhino. It is based on
explicit history concept that recorded the
modeling process, allowing users to
manipulate graphic node to generate
parametric models.
Grasshopper lets users manipulate graphic
nodes, and allows users to script in,
C#. This scripting capability is used by
advanced users to develop new applications
for non-programming users to manipulate
new functions.
1.3.2. Today digital tools
Before we dive into how the new workflow
might enhance the daylight quality inside
the space. Its important to understand what
today digital tools offer is?
That way we can clearly identify any
advantages and benefits in contrast. As
shown in Fig. 1 we cannot use just one type
of software in order to explorer and
evaluate the best design solution which
meets a certain environmental performance
in fully automatic optimization process.
Fig. 1 Shows the advantages and disadvantages of
each type of software such as Grasshopper, Ecotect,
Radiance and Galapagos
The author propose a new parametric
workflow which combines the advantages
of each type of software and makes one
platform that controls the other types of
software without the need to import or
export the 3D modeling information
between the different platforms.
2. Methodology of Parametric
This workflow describes the linking of a
three dimensional parametric modeler
(Grasshopper) plug-in for Rhinoceros with
advanced daylight simulations using
Radiance and Daysim. This complex
algorithm controls all design variables
through an optimization process. Here is a
simplified diagram of the main four parts of
the workflow shown in Fig. 2 which starts
with using parametric modeling tool, and
setting the numerical and conditional
relations between design variables ,then
connecting this algorithm with validated
daylight simulation tool and ultimately
controlling the hall system by multi
objective optimization process.
Fig. 2 Shows the workflow sequence
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This new effective workflow is done inside
Grasshopper as shown in Fig. 3, it allows the
user to work simultaneously with one
platform which has the ability to export the
3D modeling information, material
properties, and analysis grids into
Radiance/Daysim format and calculates a
series of daylight illumination analyses.
After that the simulation results are
automatically loaded back into the
Grasshopper with the numeric values of
each the analysis points as well as RGB
color mappings. In that case the analysis
results are evaluated within fitness
functions, giving feedback which is
processed in a loop action inside the
evolutionary solver. This optimizes the
algorithm parameters through time to find
the best configuration that allows better
daylight illumination.
In fact Grasshopper has outstanding
capabilities for controlling different design
parameters such as geometry dimensions,
glazing size, material properties, date and
time, which can be changed incrementally
and the simulation results can be generated
in a real-time building performance
The design workflow has been specifically
developed with the architectural design
process in mind, not only aiming to provide
designers with immediate, high quality
feedback all the way from schematic design
to design development, but also to help
them optimize the design process in right

2.1. Parametric Controls
The Parametric Controls contain all
Boolean functions for the data flow and
control the connection between different
types of software. In addition to many
numeric sliders which control each
parameter for room generation such as
width, depth, height, glazing size, shades
and reflectors dimensions, as well as the
rotations angles shown in Fig. 4.
Fig. 4 Shows the parametric controls
Fig. 3 Shows all different areas of the workflow in one Grasshopper definition
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This workflow is not limited to the linear
progression of a dataflow, sometimes it
needs critical thinking. Based on the aimed
result, some parameters should be limited to
certain values, others need to branch out to
different conditions and so on. As in model
generation, the decision should also be
completed through the progression of data.
Because the data is not limited to numbers.
There are other data types which are useful
for different purposes in programming and
algorithms. For instance, a conditional
function is used for making a Boolean
operation to orient the dataflow in a
different direction, i.e. changing between
horizontal or vertical grid analyses grids.
2.1.1. Parametric modeling
The parametric room model is constructed
in very specific ways. Since each geometry
model is attached to specific data structures
that contains 3D modeling information,
they must be constructed in specific ways
which can be encapsulated as procedures.
These procedures ensure correct material
assignments that correspond to different
element types.
Fig. 5 Shows the nonlinear modeling algorithm.
The algorithm shown in Fig. 5 is complex
but organized, a point is moved in the X
direction to make a line (Room Width) then
this line is moved in the Z direction, finally
a loft operation is made between the two
lines to generate a surface. This was the
basic logic for creating every surface in the
room. This is very useful because it is
possible to get a smart room that is
controlled by little number of metric sliders.
At the end, the surfaces are connected to a
special mesh component which controls the
automatic exportation process to the
analysis software. The importance of this
step is to control and organize 3D modeling
information to be exported automatically
and correctly to Ecotect
2.1.2. Simulated test model
The test model is a 3D model parametric
room with variable numbers of reflectors.
The room area can vary form (3m x 3m) to
(6m x 12m) and the room height can vary
form (3m to 6m). The four facades are
oriented towards the four cardinal
directions, The model is made of 3 solid
walls with only one faade facing south that
has a transparent part, and two opaque
plans representing the floor and ceiling
shown in Fig. 6.
Fig. 6 Shows the tested model configuration.
2.2. Weather data, sun position, date and
Fig. 7 Shows the environmental controls.
This part of the definition shown in Fig. 7 is
responsible for project orientation,
geographical location, and weather data
file, as well as date and time. The computer
simulations run in a clear sky condition on
September 21 at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is
corresponding to the LEED 8.1 requirement
for daylighting. As mentioned on the
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official USGBC website, an architectural
space should achieve an illumination level
of at least 108 lux and a maximum of 5283
lux, which equals a 10 to 500 foot-candle.
In order to get one LEED credit, 75% of the
room area should be within the illumination
levels, or a minimum of 90% or more to get
two LEED credits.
A special component is used for displaying
the sun ray reflections, which helps provide
a better understanding of the reflectors
2.3. Materials assignment
In this area of the definition, the full
geometry is exported in a real-time process
to Ecotect, shown in Fig. 8. Every material
was set corresponding to each element type,
the logic is very intelligent; because it can
handle any geometrical change of face
counts without any problem assigning the
correct material to each building element.
Fig. 8 Shows part of G.H. definition which controls
materials properties of the parametric geometries.
The solution for this problem was a critical
part of developing the definition, because
the script must be very flexible in order to
accept the frequent changes made by the
evolutionary solver. Ecotect materials are
used in this tested model, but the definition
also supports any new custom material
which should be imported first into Ecotect
materials library.
2.4. Analysis grid
This part of the definition defines the
analysis grids based on the width, depth,
and height of the room. Some special
scripts are used with VB.NET to create a
special Boolean function which controls the
type of analysis grid. The logic is important
because it makes it possible to toggle
between the two types of grids in real-time
without setting the properties of each
analysis grid each time shown in Fig. 9.
Fig. 9 Shows part of G.H definition which controls
the analysis grid.
These operations take the form of Boolean
logic, which will apply or not depending on
the local conditions found. The operations
can also take the form of a rule when they
are the result of IF-THEN statements. If a
particular condition is found and a rule is
triggered, the result is a Boolean of the
form True/False that will either activate or
deactivate a particular analysis grid.
2.5. Radiance analysis
Radiance is a validated lighting analysis
tool which can be used for LEED 8.1
Daylight credits. This part of the definition
is responsible for the different settings for
Radiance Desktop software by using a
combination of VB.NET and EcoLua
components inside grasshopper, It provides
a direct connection from Ecotect to
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After the analysis is done, the result appears
in an Ecotect analysis grid and is imported
back to Grasshopper automatically.
2.6. Analysis feedback
This part of the definition as shown in Fig.
10 collects the results depending on which
analysis grid was used. The logic separates
each analysis data and organizes it in the
required structure for the evaluation
Fig. 10 Show part of G.H. definition which organize
the daylight analysis data.
2.7. Analysis Evaluation
This part of the definition is dedicated to
evaluating the daylight analysis for the
current state of design. The evaluation
process counts the number of analysis
points which meet the target daylight, and
divides this by the total number of analysis
points to get a percentage shown in Fig. 11
Fig. 11 Show part of G.H. definition which
evaluating the daylight quality.
This is very useful for decision making
because it indicates the effectiveness of the
current shading system and reflectors, and
indicates whether they are effective in
keeping the illumination levels within the
required range.
2.8. Fitness Function and Loop process
This part of the definition is dedicated to
taking the evaluation results and optimizing
them over time in a loop process. The
function controls the rooms parameter as
well as the shades and reflectors. Galapagos
(the evolutionary solver) will keep
changing all values of each design
parameters to achieve the best combination
between all variables.
The approach developed by decomposing
the overall required performance and
architecture quality requirements into
individual mathematical equations which
control different design parameters ,in this
way the logic that was set for the fitness
function depends on more than one criteria
to represent the different weight of each
design objectives shown in Fig. 12.
Designers must think very carefully when
they are setting these functions, because
this is the area that allows them to control
the direction of the final results.
Fig. 12 Shows the optimization Mathematical
equation inside G.H. definition.
The main criteria is to find the best values
in all parameters for achieving the highest
percentage of analysis points that fall
within the required daylight illumination.
All other criteria mainly take into
consideration architectural quality, some
functions were set to force Grasshopper -
Evolutionary Solver - to make the room as
big as possible, and to make the shades and
the reflectors as small as possible, while
maintaining the daylight quality. The
optimization process starts by activating the
evolutionary solver as show in Fig. 13
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2.9. Results summary
This area of the definition represent the
most important results such as room
dimension ratios, the amount of
illumination, solid to void ratios, precise
angels and sizes of the reflectors and other
information that is useful for designers as
shown in Fig. 14.

Fig. 14 Shows the numerical results
Fig. 13 Shows the process of optimizing the room design based on the daylight simulations
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Another condition is added to the fitness
function that forces Galapagos to reduce the
range between the maximum and minimum
illumination values. This makes the
program try to configure the distribution of
the daylight more evenly inside the space,
helping to reduce glare. Controlling results
to meet your needs is a form of art.
3. Results
The final result of the simulation shown in
Fig. 15 gives the required information about
designing a room which allows good
daylight within LEED standard. One of the
main objectives was to find the maximum
allowable room depth while maintains the
daylight illuminations values within the
useful daylight luminance [5].
The simulation succeed to validate 100% of
the total points on the analysis gird even
until 8.6 meter room depth within a
daylight illumination between 221 and 922
Lux. This final solution shows the ability of
lighting the deep rooms with the daylight. It
also gives the needed information about the
possible number of reflectors as we as the
correct rotation angle of each one to ensure
the daylight quality in reality as it shown in
the simulation results.
4. Discussion
Without any doubt, this workflow has the
ability to control all design parameters for
each type of geometer at any level of detail,
and it transfers the 3D modeling
information data correctly to the analysis
software without any problem with mesh
typology or materials conflicts.
Furthermore the workflow revels the real
benefits of using daylight analysis in
architecture design. It uses the analysis data
and evaluates it, then it changes the design
parameter to achieve better analysis results
in the next evaluation. This loop process of
enhancing the design runs automatically
until it reaches the best solution. Finally
this technique becomes an effective way to
computationally drive the modeling process
based on daylight illumination quality.
The main results of this workflow can be
discussed in four parts:
- Developing of a new parametric design
Fig. 15 shows the most optimized design solution based on daylighting simulation results.
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methodology based on daylight analysis.
- A parametric form finding system based
on daylight analysis, which acts as a
decision-making algorithm. This parametric
algorithm carries instructions in a
systematic order where all geometrical
components that represent a design are
- This Workflow can work as a design tool
to modify one or more elements in any
current design to achieve better daylight
conditions inside the space.
- Also, the workflow has the ability to
create daylighting systems which can
respond to sun position and controls the
daylighting levels during the day.
5. Conclusion
As a conclusion, the new parametric
workflow is offering an extraordinary ways
for design exploration and evaluations in
totally interactive process. Performance-
based design that integrates daylight
simulations in the design process has many
advantages over traditional design methods,
because it allows a many design variations
to be evaluated against different daylight
Ultimately, this workflow could be
upgraded In the future to involve different
environmental factor such as (solar
radiation, wind and ventilation, energy
demand, thermal losses and more), by
involving it with other validated simulation
Of course some factors will conflict with
each other, but I think that the new tool will
be able to weight the final solution towards
the main design objective, while taking into
account the overall performance of the
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