AUTODESK X Factory_os

An audacious approach to the housing crisis

Exploring new ways to deliver sustainable, affordable housing

What if generative design could sustainably address the housing crisis?

Skyrocketing home and rental prices are creating a shortage of affordable housing for millions in America and around the world. At the same time, the construction industry accounts for nearly 40% of annual global carbon emissions and simply building new housing isn’t the only solution.

By working with Factory_OS, Autodesk Research is exploring new capabilities with generative design for quickly designing and constructing modular housing that is sustainable, habitable, and cost-effective.

The origin

Exploring the full potential of generative design

Autodesk Research has explored the potential of generative design in a variety of AEC applications, and with Factory_OS, the team is taking its research beyond the design phase to explore construction capabilities. Factory_OS uses prefabrication and modular construction to build high-quality homes 20% cheaper, 40% faster, and with 70% less waste than traditional building construction.

In late 2019, a team of Autodesk Researchers focused on design, sustainability, knowledge capture and insights, and robotics began working with Factory_OS on improving how it designs and manufactures its modular housing units. The buildings are built on an assembly line in a massive construction facility before being delivered to a building site, where workers fasten them together and connect systems and utilities.

To truly address the housing crisis and the massive carbon impact of construction, companies must focus on delivering affordable, sustainable, and desirable homes.

New possibilities

Today, the Autodesk Research team is continuing to explore how multi-scale generative design can navigate the complex relationships between site, building, unit, and construction. Additionally, the teams are integrating metrics across these scales to allow for data-driven tradeoffs between operational carbon, embodied carbon, cost, and human-centric features like habitability.

Autodesk Research continues to work with Factory_OS to investigate new possibilities with generative design for AEC, automated building engineering systems, low-carbon and carbon-sequencing materials, and robotics workflows. Each of these new technologies and applications has the potential to transform how buildings are designed, constructed, and operated in the future.

Addressing unique challenges in construction posed by the pandemic

While the pandemic impacted the in-person work and collaboration between Autodesk Research and Factory_OS early in the project, it also presented an impetus for even more transformational change in manufacturing and construction. With supply chain interruptions and high costs for building supplies, industrial construction began to gain momentum and industry traction, moving from a niche industry to a real solution for addressing productivity gaps and challenges with delivering quality, affordable housing.

Construction automation plays a huge role in supporting the industry’s digital transformation and in helping to solve the global housing crisis.

“From the synergy of commercial software applications to the cutting-edge research and development efforts, Autodesk is enabling us to solve the future of housing by combining design, technology, and practical applications of software. Our collaborative work with the Autodesk Research team is taking that synergy to a whole new level with the integration of modular manufacturing, sustainability, and generative design. What started out as a concept two years ago has now developed into a full force effort to out-design carbon emissions while providing quality affordable homes for everyone.”

Larry Pace

CEO, Factory_OS

Delivering desirable homes—quickly and sustainably

It’s not enough to deliver affordable housing—people also should like where they live and have homes that incorporate important elements like lighting designed to maximize the space, pleasant views, privacy and a reasonable amount of noise from neighbors and the surrounding area. Generative design can incorporate all of these considerations and more into designing and building high-quality homes where people truly want to live.

To date, Factory_OS has built more than 2,000 new homes. The data garnered by Factory_OS and Autodesk Research on industrial construction will help further remove the barriers for building modular homes, essentially creating a catalog of building designs that can be easily leveraged by generative design to meet location and customization needs.

Driving toward a net zero future

As part of its commitment to equip customers with capabilities to design, build, and operate buildings with net zero carbon emissions, Autodesk Research is exploring features beyond typical sustainability workflows with Factory_OS. One feature is incorporating carbon sequestration through building materials, allowing some wall sections to be “carbon-negative” by absorbing more carbon than they emit during the process of their creation. Additionally, the teams are integrating “carbon sequestration through landscape” into generative design to maximize how landscaping can absorb carbon. The goal is to explore how building materials and landscaping design can reduce the massive carbon emissions of buildings and construction.

The work continues

Autodesk is proud to invest in Factory_OS, helping to fuel the company’s innovation in industrialized construction. Additionally, by continuing to work with Factory_OS, Autodesk Research can test and validate its research in the real world, study buildings as they travel from the production line to the construction site, and develop processes for future projects throughout the AEC industry—all while driving toward a net-zero future.

Associated Researchers

Fraser Anderson

Sr. Principal Research Scientist

Toronto, CA

David Benjamin

Director of AEC Industry Futures

New York, USA

Nick Cote

Sr. Design Roboticist

San Francisco, USA

Mark Davis

Sr. Director

San Francisco, USA

Arthur Harsuvanakit

Sr. Designer

San Francisco, USA

Damon Lau

Sr. Research Scientist

New York, USA

Brian Lee

Principal Research Scientist

New Jersey, USA

John Locke

Sr. Principal Research Scientist

New York, USA

James Stoddart

Sr. Research Scientist Associate

Georgia, USA

Lorenzo Villaggi

Principal Research Scientist

New York, USA

Ray Wang

Sr. Research Scientist

New York, USA

Dale Zhao

Sr. Research Engineer

New York, USA

View all researchers

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