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Parametric toolset for rapid evaluation of urban masterplans

The ‘new normal’ in urban planning workflows uses evidence-based, interactive, iterative parametric tools. Parametric software allows the rapid creation and analysis of urban forms, which traditionally were time-consuming processes limited to fixed block forms and road networks. Using the parametric tools, urban planning and design analyses become iterative and can be placed within the design process itself.

This research established an interconnected system of parametric tools encompassing transport, water and microclimate. A change in one attribute immediately propagates across all parts of the toolset. This supports an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to solving complex problems holistically.

As the computational engine of a software tool becomes more complicated and complex, it is increasingly important to have a polished, easy-to-use and intuitive interface for users. The designer should be presented with a simple graphics-based interaction referencing the components needed to generate analyses. Connections to the background engines and neural networks should be hidden to provide a clean and clear user experience.

It is important that the computational core of the integrated toolkit be founded on well-documented, well-established principals. For example:

  • the toolkit’s transportation assessment tool incorporates four-step gravity approach
  • the pedestrian network assessment tool uses the 5D approach (density, diversity, design, destination and distance)
  • the sponge city low-impact development tool is based on US Environmental Protection Agency standards
  • the thermal comfort assessment tool includes PET-based (physiological equivalent temperature) thermal comfort standards.

Examples of how the parametric masterplanning toolset can help a design team include:

  • using transit, open space, density, land-use and more to support the story of an urban design node
  • planning a complete transportation system, including centre locations
  • adjusting massing for maximum pedestrian thermal comfort
  • planning open space networks by identifying environmentally-justifiable locations
  • balancing development with water runoff and soil contamination, for low-impact development and analysis of sponge cities.

A parametric approach enables rapid prototyping of urban forms in masterplans and allows multiple urban plan options to be presented to clients, each accompanied by visually strong renders and analyses.