How Autodesk Used Generative Design to Optimize Its Office Space

Autodesk chose to test constraints associated with optimizing their interior work environment in the Toronto office.

The constraints were things like load bearing walls, elevator shafts, hallways run by the building management, and HVAC systems. The parameters governing the placements of each office part were:

  • Adjacency preference—a score of how near a desk is to things the user wants to be near
  • Work style preference—a measurement comparing a team’s space with their wants (e.g., Is it quiet or more social and which do they prefer?)
  • Buzz—a measurement of how spread out high activity zones are to maximize their use
  • Productivity—a measurement of how distracting an area might be
  • Daylight—a measurement of how much natural light an area receives
  • Views of outside—a measurement of how much a desk can see out of nearby windows

“These are the goals we looked into, but we also explored other goals,” said Benjamin. “Each generative design system had a slightly different set of design goals and geometry constraints.… Each system came with 10,000 design options.… That was a fascinating part of the design process.… How do you translate what you want out of the project into a set of measurable goals? What is included in generative design?”

The Autodesk office houses many different teams, each of whom would have their own preferences for their work area. These work areas are dubbed “neighborhoods.” The boundaries of these neighborhoods could be moved to a certain extent, but were really used to guide the software to make working spaces for each team.

As each neighborhood would house a team, each team had to codify its preference for its office in various surveys.

Each neighborhood in the office has a different look and feel. A team with a need to engage in a lot of collaboration would likely end up with a neighborhood that has a more open concept. A team that is heads down on details will likely see more cubicles or office doors in its neighborhood. A team that works on testing and building physical equipment will likely see more of a workshop space than an office. And, of course, that workshop neighborhood will likely be located closer to the collaborative team’s neighborhood than the heads-down team, which needs a quiet space, after all.

“We had some teams or employees ask, ‘Why is my team here?’ when they don’t get a lot of sunlight,” said Ramtin Attar, head of Design and Social Impact at Autodesk. “It’s because your team said on the survey they preferred a dark or quiet space. They didn’t realize how much it affected the results. Some even asked to change their inputs.”

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