Learning to Simulate and Design for Structural Engineering

AbstractThe structural design process for buildings is time consuming and laborious. To automate this process, structural engineers combine optimization methods with simulation tools to find an optimal design with minimal building mass subject to building regulations. However, structural engineers in practice often avoid optimization and compromise on a suboptimal design for the majority of buildings, due to the large size of the design space, the iterative nature of the optimization methods, and the slow simulation tools. In this work, we formulate the building structures as graphs and create an end-to-end pipeline that can learn to propose the optimal cross-sections of columns and beams by training together with a pre-trained differentiable structural simulator. The performance of the proposed structural designs is comparable to the ones optimized by genetic algorithm (GA), with all the constraints satisfied. The optimal structural design with the reduced the building mass can not only lower the material cost, but also decrease the carbon footprint.

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