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Topology Optimization: The Use of Cutting Edge Numerical Methods in Teaching Structures to Architects.

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Innovative Teaching in Architectural Engineering

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Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1363.1 - 25.1363.12



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Paper Authors

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Sinead C. Mac Namara Syracuse University


James K. Guest Johns Hopkins University

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Jamie Guest is an Assistant Professor of civil engineering at Johns Hopkins University. His research and teaching interests focus on topology optimization and structural engineering. He received his M.S.E. and Ph.D. from Princeton University and B.S.E. from University of Pennsylvania, all in civil engineering.

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Topology Optimization: The Use of Cutting Edge Numerical Methods in Teaching Structures to Architects.This paper describes an example of design education in architectural structures at ______University.Topology Optimization is one kind of structural optimization aimed at finding the bestsolution to a structural design problem. In this case “best” can be defined lightest, safest,most economical, or as most visually striking or having the most desirable spatialcharacteristics. As opposed to sizing optimization (which finds the optimally membersize for a given structural configuration) or shape optimization (which shapes structuralmembers for optimum material use for a given structural configuration), topologyoptimization is a generator of structural form. It is a more general approach that isparticularly useful for solving new problems, for find true optimum forms.This study examines a design assignment using topology optimization algorithms(proprietor software provided by a researcher in the field of numerical methods inengineering) undertaken by Masters of Architecture students in their first semester ofstructures education. The assignment required the students to propose a design problemdefined only in terms of a rectangular 2D design space, the location of load, and thelocation and nature of boundary conditions. No presumption of form could be made.They also had control over the fineness of the mesh in which the solution was formed.The students made multiple iterations of their designs before selected the one with themost visual appeal, or best fit for the materials and program. The designs ranged in scalefrom furniture to highway overpass supports. Once a structural form had been made, thestudents undertook a Finite Element Analysis of the design under real load conditions andestimated structural member size.This paper presents the results of the assignment and the student evaluation data for thecourse as whole and this assignment as part of an overall effort to understand the value ofstructural engineering in the architectural design process.

Mac Namara, S. C., & Guest, J. K. (2012, June), Topology Optimization: The Use of Cutting Edge Numerical Methods in Teaching Structures to Architects. Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22120

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