(c) Paul Dingman;(c) Paul Dingman;

Digital design

At Arup, every design task is a blend of human creativity, data-driven insights and clarity about our clients’ needs. We continually find new ways to use design to push produce more sustainable outcomes.

Tristram Carfrae Arup

Tristram Carfrae

Deputy Chair

At Arup, every design task is a blend of human creativity, data-driven insights and clarity about our clients’ needs. We continually find new ways to use design to push produce more sustainable outcomes.

Traditionally, design relied on individuals’ experience and creativity, refining and testing a narrow range of promising ideas. Today, we combine those human skills with powerful digital tools, enabling us to think bigger and deeper. Our digital design process begins by understanding what clients want to achieve, assesses the sustainability impacts of the project, before taking advantage of computing power to explore as many promising approaches and ideas as possible.

Our unique combination of creativity and analysis, of options and exploration, allows us to address everything from upfront costs to carbon emissions and resource use, to economic and social value, and the likely impacts on the natural world.

Planning tools

At the earliest planning stages, we use data to build a robust picture of the context into which a project must fit. OurCity Modelling Labsteam use agent-based modelling to help plan future transport infrastructure investments that will accurately meet current and future need. OurMassMotion softwaresimulates how people move around and interact with their environment, helping clients to understand and shape the user experience they need to offer.

Featured project

Designing better flood defences with machine learning

Shanghai’s population has tripled since 1990, leading to growing city flooding and river pollution, made worse by climate change. Our masterplanning team used remote sensing to scan greater Shanghai, and built a machine learning tool to interpret the images and categorise the entire area into 12 categories of flooding protection need. The project demonstrates how human ingenuity and community priorities can be supercharged by the power of machine learning to achieve previously impossible things.

Find out more about our work

Parametric design and optimisation

Today’sparametric digital design toolsenable our teams to blend an ever-increasing number of client requirements – geotechnical details, sunlight levels, materials costs, commercial goals, almost anything measurable – using genetic and generative algorithms to explore thousands of design outcomes, at speed.

Our design team’s approach to theZun Tower in Beijingwas shaped by everything from the developer’s floorspace requirements to likely rentable values, each parameter variation feeding into different design optimisations.

We used similar techniques at the Battersea Power Station residential development, to maximise the daylight and river views achieved from each apartment. These four projects demonstrate just a few of strengths of our approach:


Smakkelaarspark: data shapes decision making

At Smakkelaarspark we worked with the architect and client to identify design goals including maximum sunlight exposure, privacy and views and minimum noise transfer and energy use, along with functional apartment layouts. We built parametric models that varied the massing, structure and facade elements, and used genetic and generative algorithms to produce the best client outcomes. The parametric design method allowed us to explore many more options than could have been achieved otherwise – and it stretched the whole team’s imaginations to create unexpected and innovative solutions.

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Valley: optimised design

Parametric design is a great way to navigate the competing goals of a proposed design. On the mixed-use ‘Valley’ development, we used the technique to review its incredibly complex structure, ensuring compliance with local building codes while producing the desired resident and visitor experience.

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Whole Foods

Whole Foods: net zero adaptation

How do energy hungry businesses like supermarkets adapt to net-zero operation regulations? Find out how we developed our own genetic algorithm to optimise a Whole Foods supermarket’s energy systems, cut their energy use by 46% and prepare to meet California’s Zero Net Energy regulations.

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Discover how we've helped our clients

Learn more about our parametric design work

Understanding dynamic systems

As designers and engineers of high-performance infrastructure we’re often challenged to explore, test and validate designs involving complex natural factors like wind, water, earthquakes or human behaviour. Arup is at the forefront of bringing deeper digital understanding to these vital design considerations, pushing industry tools likeLS-Dynato bring new insights and confidence to the design process.

Featured project

Designing the Canton Tower

As one of the world's tallest buildings,The Canton Tower buildinghas a unique architectural form. Learn how our designers used the most advanced technologies in wind engineering and wind tunnel studies to produce an effective design.

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Communicating design

Design is always a combination of how it works, how it looks and what it means. Mastery of digital tools enables us to unify these elements.

Experiences that engage

Ourvisualisation teamleads the industry in simulations that bring designs to life, allowing clients and communities to experience, explore and debate every element of design well before anything is built. We blend immersive technologies to suit a client’s goals, producing an entire train carriage experience in virtual reality to help the High Speed 2 team experience the noise implications of different train designs, profiling the service’s sonic effects on the communities it will traverse.

operational-simulation operational-simulation

Our team can now simulate every aspect of a proposed service or experience – acoustically, visually, spatially – allowing teams to explore improvements, gauge operating costs, and gain public feedback.

Visualisation humanises design, bringing practitioners closer to the public they serve. It’s cost-effective too, meaning many more projects can be engagingly presented to a greater number of stakeholders and communities.

Discover how our visualisation team can help

Building on BIM

Building information modelling (BIM) has been the best way to design and engineer functionally complex structures for some time. We push it further, bringing additional layers of information and data to every model, to help clients explore operational options and performance potential.

Use of BIM has allowed us to design the world’s firstLEED platinum data centre for Citi, as well as ensuring that the distinctive and resource-efficient façade of the BeijingNational Aquatics Centre(Water Cube) became possible.

Learn more about our BIM expertise


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