SAFAS: Unifying Form and Structure through Interactive 3D Simulation
There has been a significant gap between the tools used for the design of a building’s architectural form and those that evaluate the structural physics of that form. Seeking to bring the perspectives of visual design and structural engineering closer together, we developed and evaluated a design tool for students and practitioners to explore the inter-relationships between the form and structure of long-span structures. We have developed an interactive 3D design application for spatial structures that integrates with a web simulation service, enabling the iterative analytic comparison of designs by structural weight, force distribution, member deflection and stability. In this paper, we describe the design and development of this Structure And Form Analysis System (SAFAS) tool using the usability engineering methodology, presenting its evolution and evaluation though four semesters of use in undergraduate architecture classes. In this paper we present our summative results and lessons learned for the usability engineering of e-Learning systems, scientific visualization of structural dynamics, and user skill sets.