Here’s How We Built a Vibrant Research Community Around Simulation for Architecture

There are two primary conditions present for the emergence of successful ideas: a social setting conducive to stimulating conversations, and a deep bond between the team members that come together to passionately pursue it. This is precisely story of the organization we founded, Symposium on Simulation for Architecture and Urban Design (SimAUD) as we have reached an incredible milestone and now celebrate SimAUD’s 10-year anniversary.

A Common Cause

It was just over a decade ago when a few of us were exchanging views with our academic research peers over the state of architecture research on a chilly Sunday evening while sharing a few drinks at a local bar in downtown Toronto. Specifically, we talked about how the growing implications and opportunities in the flourishing field of simulation would impact our approach to understanding, designing and shaping the built environment. Our fruitful debate seeded the idea of establishing a world-class venue where researchers in architecture, engineering and science could come together for sharing knowledge and collaboration. We envisioned a different kind of conference where knowledge dissemination was achieved through open modeling, data sharing, and knowledge sharing.

Snapshots of several Best Paper awards.

We’ve come a long way since then and are incredibly proud of the community that’s developed around this shared mission. Our robust and rigorous peer-reviewed process leverages world experts from the domains of science, engineering and architecture. SimAUD is now a platform for top researchers from industry and academia to extend their learning beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. Our authors have contributed over 320 state-of-art technical research papers archived at the digital library of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

Still, creating a “good” simulation remains an art, perhaps a black art.

SimAUD’s success is indebted to its vibrant community of authors, scientific committee, chairs, advisory members, sponsors, and steering committees. While the number is greater than what we can fit in this short writing, we would like to acknowledge Professor Gabriel Wainer (Associate Chair, Systems and Computer Engineering, Carleton University) whose guidance and support played a critical role in setting up SimAUD under the support of the Society for Modeling and Simulation International.

SimAUD 2019 took place at Georgia Tech University

An Ongoing Pursuit

This year, we’re excited about the rapid changes in the technology landscape, the material palette, and process innovations. Notable advancements are being made in modeling, simulation, co-simulation, and systems simulation, together with multiscale methods, machine learning techniques for surrogate simulation and other modelling efforts.

Why does simulation for architecture matter? Today, buildings generate nearly 40% of annual greenhouse global gas emissions. And the world’s population is urbanizing—every day at least 200,00 people are moving into cities around the globe. We live on a planet with already-stressed resources, but cities will need more housing and infrastructure to meet the demand of the growing population. This means that the way we design, model, and engineer our buildings is crucial to a sustainable future. Simulation is a valuable capability that lets us generate invaluable insight and study the complex trade-offs in designing and constructing the buildings of tomorrow. The more accurately we can use simulation to develop predictive models of these complex and dynamic systems, the more we can reduce the negative environmental impact of our built environments.

We have now broken a new ceiling in gender diversity with female researchers capturing 51% of the work presented at SimAUD 2019.

Still, creating a “good” simulation remains an art, perhaps a black art. As simulations become more ambitious, the need for advancements in adjacent fields becomes increasingly important. Visualization, uncertainty analysis, end-user programming and end-user debugging are all needed by our community as well. It has become more important than ever to develop Explainable AI (XAI) and other parallel efforts to convey the meaning of results and to build trust and confidence.

(left to right) Best Paper Award, SimAUD panel discussion.

SimAUD in Numbers

As founders of SimAUD, we’ve had the privilege of observing the growth and evolution of the organization year by year, conference by conference, and paper by paper. However, we won’t be first ones to highlight that SimAUD’s greatest achievement is its vibrant and diverse community! In 10 years, researchers from leading academic and industry research groups representative of 36 countries have attended SimAUD, with a yearly average of 45 organizations from 18 countries in recent years. But the diversity of our community extends beyond topics, domains and continents. We have now broken a new ceiling in gender diversity with female researchers capturing 51% of the work presented at SimAUD 2019.

SimAUD 2020 will be held at Austrian Institute of Technology in Vienna. Access SimAUD’s proceedings here.

The Next Decade

Every year, SimAUD’s organizers build on the success of their predecessors to push progress forward. Incrementally, SimAUD has found a life of its own—its community goes beyond what we’d ever imagined. There is still much more to be done, and our community is excited by the prospect of our collective action to create new pathways for growth and impact. As we have concluded the first 10 years of SimAUD, we are eagerly looking forward to what the next 10 years will look like!