Best Parametric Architecture Software in 2023

Best Parametric Architecture Software in 2023

If you are searching for a way of designing unique buildings, 3D modeling apps alone might not be enough. In its place, you require the right parametric modeling architecture software.

October 23, 2023

Today, 3D modeling apps are the go-to options for many applications, from buildings to machinery manufacturing. If you are searching for a way of designing unique buildings, 3D modeling apps alone might not be enough. In its place, you require the right parametric modeling architecture software. So, what exactly is parametric modeling or design? What is the best parametric modeling architecture software? Keep reading as we dig deeper into parametric building design to answer all the questions you might have.

A Deeper Look into Parametric Building Design

Before looking at the best parametric architecture software in 2023, let’s start by understanding what it is. So, what exactly is parametric design?

This is a process of architectural design that uses algorithmic thinking to allow the expression of parameters as well as rules that work together to encode, define, and clarify the actual relationship between design response and design intent. It originates from parametric equations in mathematics where specific parameters are manipulated to change the final results. In architecture, it is used to define the ability of dimensions to change the geometry of a model.

It is one of the most practical processes in building design and engineering, especially when products with minor variations are being developed. Today, most engineers with parts that require regular modification opt to use parametric architecture software. 

All models created using parametric architecture software must have clearly defined features or attributes. These include things such as width, length, orientation, depth, material, and density, among others. Parametric modeling involves using the relationships between these features and, further, between drawings, assemblies, and parts.

Comparing Direct Modeling to Parametric Design

Direct modeling and parametric modeling are two advanced techniques used in architecture and building design today. Direct modeling allows an architect to capture and define geometry promptly without focusing on original design intent, constraints and features. You can liken it to using clay to make some models where all that is needed is to pull and push the geometry to arrive at the targeted shape.

Direct modeling is recommended for conceptual efforts where the architect does not want to be specific about the interdependencies and features of the selected product. See, you can start an architectural project just for creativity, and make modeling adjustments along the way. A good way to promote creativity in building design, but the fact that you are not specific means key limitations in architecture. This is why you should carefully compare it with more advanced options, especially parametric and generative designs. 

Parametric architecture is the opposite of direct modeling. Here, the architect is concerned about every parameter of the product being designed. Therefore, the features and all constraints must be clearly defined. Put it this way: direct modeling is pretty general while parametric designing is detailed. So, you are sure to develop a building or product form that will match the client's dimensions, color, or other specific parameters.

Benefits of Using Parametric Architecture Software

The main advantage of using parametric building design and related apps is that they work excellently for jobs that require specific requirements and development criteria. For example, when creating a family of products where very slight variations are needed, such as location of bolts in a frange or window in a building design, the intent between dimensions, assemblies, and parts must be clearly defined. It also works very well when dealing with products that have features that can be modified, such as chamfers and holes. Other benefits associated with using parametric architecture software include:

●        Makes it easy to set automatic updates for models in your design.

●        The process of creating and defining families of products is easy.

●     Capturing architectural intent is easy, allowing engineers and architects to define how various models should function/operate/behave when one parameter is changed.

●        It can easily be integrated with the manufacturing process to help cut down the production time.

While these benefits are no doubt desirable in every way, they are not without some cons. Because your parametric architecture involves working with a long list of parameters, investigating different concepts can be challenging. Again, learning parametric design is harder compared to the standard 3D design. However, the results from parametric architecture apps will be impressive because they allow you to create designs that would otherwise have been considered impossible. 

The Best Parametric Architecture Software

The following is a collection of the leading parametric architecture apps that you should consider using in 2022. We must highlight that most of the programs in this list are targeted at professional developers as opposed to home users. So, let’s take a closer look and see what 2022 has to offer:

●        Solidworks

When working on mechanical parts, SolidWorks software is no doubt one of the best parametric architectural apps to pick. It is a powerful CAD app that works excellently for design engineers, mechanical engineers, and industrial designers. It comes with multiple tools that you can use for modeling hard surfaces, and they are very intuitive.

The feature tree of SolidWorks software  is also manageable, making it pretty easy to manipulate parts and components of your product. This, coupled with an easy-to-use user interface, makes SolidWorks a great choice for both starters and professionals.

Another unique feature of SolidWorks that makes architects enjoy using it is the viewport. Unlike many CAD apps out there, SolidWorks program allows you to easily move the viewport with ease. The software also comes with additional features and tools for animation, rendering, motion studies, CAD documentation, and simulations.

●        Digital Blue Foam

Digital Blue Foam is the newest kid on the block in architecture softwares. Digital Blue Foam tool is a game-changing web-based 3D modelling tool that allows designers to generate sustainable building designs according to the latest demands of built-environment. Powered by AI and generative design, it reduces a significant amount of time spent by designers on initial study and form conception. It uses the world's real-time data for analysis and design generation. DBF software has been created by domain experts having extensive experience in the fields on architecture and computational design. The latest version boasts of the following features:

- Intelligent 3D sketching in the browser
- Urban Insights analysis for 15 minute city design
- Advanced Generative Typologies
- Realtime tenancy automation and metrics
- LIVE Sync to your favourite BIM software with DBF hub.

Create fast, impressive 3D models with the added value of feasibility analysis for your prospective clients.

●        FreeCAD

Coming close to our first choice is FreeCAD, a general-purpose parametric CAD app. It acts as a modeler and comes with Finite Element Support (FES). Although the parametric app was originally designed for mechanical engineering, improvements have made it equally excellent for other types of engineering, including electrical and architecture. It is an open-source program and works excellently with most operating systems, from Windows to MacOS.

The most notable feature of the FreeCAD app for architecture is the modeler, which allows users to easily modify their models by altering different parameters. To make designing easy and fun, FreeCAD also uses the workbench concept to reduce clutter in the working area. The concept allows the user to only display the tools needed for specific tasks.

Another unique attribute of FreeCAD is that it can run without its interface, but with all its tools. Using this capability, FreeCAD is considered a sort of a server for producing content for other apps. For example, it is possible to import FreeCAD as a python module for apps that run in the Python console. This feature is important for architects who might also be interested in programming.

●        CATIA

CATIA is a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) app by Dassault Systems. It was first released in 1977, and architects use it to manage data during product development. Therefore, it is considered an important tool for improving not just the workflows but also productivity for architects. You will love the program because it makes it very easy to track all changes made on the product under development.

Like Solidworks or  Grasshopper, CATIA works best for professionals with vast experience, especially in generative and parametric designs. As a powerful 3D modeling app, CATIA is currently the most common app for designing cars and airplanes. For example, it is the main program used by Boeing to design its large aircrafts or specific parts.

One unique advantage of using CATIA is that it comes with a lot of tools for customizations. With the advanced CATIA Composite Design 3 (CPD), you can develop so many composite configurations. Also, the tools allow you to manage multi-part geometries, including the extra-hardened parts. 

The three parametric architecture software options we have highlighted in this post stand out in the market because of their unique features and diverse applications in architectural works. Other top options that you might want to consider are Creo Parametric, Siemens NX, Fusion 360, and Rhino with Grasshopper plugin. Remember that using any parametric architecture software requires top-notch skills, and it might be a good idea to start by developing them.

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