Design Space Exploration and Explanation via Conditional Variational Autoencoders in Meta-Model-Based Conceptual Design of Pedestrian Bridges

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Automation in Construction, (2024)
DOI: 10.1016/j.autcon.2024.105411


Today, engineers rely on conventional iterative (often manual) techniques for conceptual design. Emerging parametric models facilitate design space exploration based on quantifiable performance metrics, yet remain time-consuming and computationally expensive, leaving room for improvement. This paper provides a design exploration and explanation framework to augment the designer via a Conditional Variational Autoencoder (CVAE), which serves as a forward performance predictor as well as an inverse design generator conditioned on a set of performance requests. Hence, the CVAE overcomes the limitations of traditional iterative techniques by learning a differentiable mapping for a highly nonlinear design space, thus enabling sensitivity analysis. These methods allow for informing designers about (i) relations of the model between features and performances and (ii) structural improvements under user-defined objectives. The framework is tested on a case-study and proves its potential to serve as a future co-pilot for conceptual design studies of diverse civil structures and beyond.



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