Dynamo and Computational Design


It has happened to everyone, companies and professionals in the construction industry, to have heard of Dynamo BIM at least once. In fact, in recent years, figures such as the computational designer have been increasingly in demand in architectural and engineering firms and even construction companies in general, but why?

In this article we will look at what computational design is, what skills are involved, how we implemented these automations at La SIA, and what is the future of this “way” of automating work.

The visual programming

VPL (visual programming language), is in short, a visual programming language, i.e., a language that allows the user to graphically manipulate the elements of a given “environment” or software in order to automate its most cumbersome operations, but not only.

Dynamo BIM is just one of the software in the VPL world, but there are many others, even in fields completely different from the construction world. In fact, there are VPL software for the world of music, art, video editing, app and game development, and so on.

*KNIME, example of VPL for data analysis and reporting.

Dynamo BIM, on the other hand, began as a visual programming tool for Autodesk Revit, back in 2014, but over the years has since become a tool available for other software in the AEC Collection, such as Autodesk Civil 3D and Fusion 360.


Autodesk Dynamo Studio

What are the skills of the computational designer?

To be able to implement a workflow with Dynamo, whether it is for Revit or Civil 3D, it is therefore, necessary to have resources with IT skills or at least an interest in IT, and in learning how this powerful tool works.

One of the core competencies of the computational designer, which we value highly, is to have a lot of curiosity. This is because the possibilities of using the tool are so many, and only by “poking around” and “experimenting” with the various functions it makes available to us, can we really learn how to manage it and above all, solve its problems should they arise (and they will!).

Needless to say, if you mainly use Civil 3D in your company, your technical team, should know how to use Civil, before moving to Dynamo. Same goes for Revit of course. It is necessary, therefore, to have a thorough knowledge of the main design tool, whether Revit, Civil or others, and then move on to the VPL environment.

In general, among the core competencies of our computational designer, we should have:

Essential skills:

  • As mentioned above, lots of curiosity!!!
  • At least general knowledge of the project area in which one works;
  • A thorough understanding of the design tool to go alongside Dynamo;
  • A basic knowledge of the programming world, because many operations with Dynamo can also be customized via code!

Desirable skills:

  • Knowing what an IDE is;
  • An understanding of Dynamo packages;
  • Understand standards and techniques related to User Interface;
  • An understanding of the python programming language and its libraries;
  • Know how to manage the Dynamo environment including through the Dynamo Player;
  • Coordinate the distribution of scripts and libraries (especially if your office has more than one location!).
The La SIA Dynamo Script

The implementation of Dynamo BIM at La SIA

In our company, we started introducing the first scripts in Dynamo in 2015/2016, and the goal of these scripts was to facilitate and speed up some modeling operations. For example, the automatic placement of certain families at certain points in the Revit model. However, these scripts, being the first attempts to approach Dynamo, were not developed to be used by all the resources and professionals working with La SIA, and more importantly they contained many redundant “nodes,” which slows down and burdens their execution.

So toward the beginning of 2018, we began to put together a team dedicated to these activities (and more), a team that later officially became La SIA’s Research & Development group, with the goal then of coordinating and managing scripts, libraries, and more.

Today the R&D group is in charge of, among other things, both the scripts in Dynamo, but also:

  • Web Application development and coordination, then in an environment outside of Revit or other Autodesk software;
  • Of creating automations using vba for the Microsoft 365 suite;
  • Of the implementation of various batch scripts to speed up some operations on enterprise servers;
  • Of creating and managing reports with DAX (Data Analysis Expression), which is the query language of Power BI
La SIA – Power BI Desktop

Reflection on the work of the coming years

In conclusion, we believe that design in the coming years will increasingly need Computational Designers. In recent years these resources, are among the most sought after in our market, resources that therefore have both skills in the design discipline and skills more generally from the world of Computer Science.

In the “digital” age in which we live, the software we use travels at the speed of light and could undergo radical change, even if only in the space of 6 months. This is without including the wave of artificial intelligence-based systems, which will only further accelerate this trend. Today, therefore, it is no longer feasible to think of learning one tool and using it throughout our careers . The best option we have is to learn the logic behind these tools and not the tools themselves.

Arch. Ernesto Pellegrino
Research & Development Manager – La SIA

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