ITcon Vol. 11, pg. 427-435,

CAD, curved surfaces and building quality

submitted:September 2005
revised:January 2006
published:June 2006
editor(s):Howard R
authors:Rob Howard, senior visiting fellow
Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Helsinki, Finland, and Construction Communications, Cambridge, UK
summary:As Computer Aided Design has developed since the 1970s, it has enabled more complex building forms to be designed, drawn and constructed. The availability of complex curved surfaces has allowed architects, in particular, to design more expressive buildings. The question must now be asked whether these have added value or whether they are only relevant to iconic buildings, of which only a few justify their greater cost. The paper follows the development of building form and looks at its increasing complexity, since CAD was introduced, in the work of Foster & Partners, Frank Gehry and others. It considers measures of quality such as the Design Quality Index, and looks at the geometry of curved surfaces and the volumes they contain from economic and environmental points of view. The current obsession with iconic buildings may not last since being different becomes a style in itself and the current ability to pay for complex forms may not continue. The conclusion is that only in a few special buildings do complex curved surfaces offer more than a variety of expression for the designer. The additional quality that may be achieved by use of complex forms depends upon the prominence of the building and the priorities of the client. The economic benefits of CAD are more likely to lie in better models of simpler forms which enable design to be coordinated and integrated with manufacture and construction.
keywords:CAD, curved surfaces, building form, design quality, building models.
full text: (PDF file, 0.171 MB)
citation:Howard R (2006). CAD, curved surfaces and building quality, ITcon Vol. 11, Special issue The Effects of CAD on Building Form and Design Quality, pg. 427-435,