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emv10@psu.edu - Penn State - State College  PA

Perforated masonry walls in Paraguay: Creating a digital framework for shape, performance, and optimization.
MS Thesis Project
Elena Vazquez
Advisors: Jose Duarte, Ute Poerschke
This work won the Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award. See the news: 
Vazquez, Elena; “A Grammar of Perforated Masonry Walls. A formal analysis of brick walls used for shading and ventilation in Paraguay”, p. 544-551 . In: . São Paulo: Blucher, 2017. ISSN 2318-6968, DOI 10.5151/sigradi2017-084

This project seeks to develop a digital framework for the design of optimized perforated brick walls used for natural ventilation and shading in Paraguay. The optimization is based on their performance as environmental control elements, in a hot and humid climate[1]. The performance-driven system sought in this research goes beyond the rigid rationality of function, with a situated awareness that aims to include the particularities of culture, place, and the environment. Consequently, this research develops the digital framework based on local design traditions and affordable, low-tech construction methods.

This study relies on several computational design methods. An analysis of case studies is performed identifying the typical design parameters for these walls, defined by use and form patterns, the location conditions and the brick arrangements used. A parametric model is then constructed establishing as variables the values of dimensions, orientation, and type of wall, based on the design and construction parameters defined in the previous step. These variables frame the solution space for the study. The parametric model is afterward connected to a simulation engine[2] and an optimization algorithm[3]. The algorithm then finds a set of solutions with a low average level of energy cooling consumption, allowing to choose from a family of optimized designs.

This research seeks to improve a traditional and affordable passive design strategy for building in hot and humid climates. The proposed digital framework helps design locally grounded optimized solutions, and enhances architects’ understanding of how the different design features affect the performance of the building. Through the creation of a digital tool for architects and builders, this project highlights the importance of designing performance-based systems that react to the context on which they stand, with an environmentally conscious approach.


[1] Köppen-Geiger climate classification

[2] Energy+, the engine in DIVA plugging for Grasshopper - Rhino

[3] Genetic optimization algorithms