Multivariate Optimization in Large-Scale Building Problems: An Architectural and Urban Design Approach for Balancing Social, Environmental, and Economic Sustainability

Grant Mosey, Brian Deal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper explores the promise of genetic algorithms as a tool for optimization of buildings at a neighborhood scale across the conflicting demands of social, environmental, and economic sustainability. A large urban site in Chicago, Illinois, is selected to test the viability of using a multi criteria genetic algorithm to optimize the potential building mix in a newly planned development. Two variables, the number of buildings of a given use-type and their height, are analyzed against cost functions for social, economic, and environmental objectives. Single-objective algorithms are utilized to optimize the variables individually. A non-dominated genetic sorting algorithm (NGSAII) is then utilized to identify the Pareto-optimal solutions considering the three objectives simultaneously. Single-objective results are found to vary substantially by objective, with different variable values for social, economic, and environmental sustainability. For multi-objective algorithms, the results support Campbell’s notion of the three nodes of sustainability being in conflict. Solutions performing well across economic and environmental objectives were most common. Solutions performing well among environmental and social objectives were less common. Solutions performing well across economic and social performance were rare. This suggests that while economic and environmental conflicts are to some degree resolvable, conflicts between social and either of economic or environmental performance are more difficult to resolve. The failure of any solution to perform well across all three objectives lends credence to the idea of design as a series of trade-offs and that one super optimum solution may not exist. The process provides insights into the trade-offs implicit in the building design and development process and raises questions regarding the balancing of competing sustainability objectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10052
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalSustainability
Volume12
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2 2020

Keywords

  • Economic sustainability
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Genomic algorithm
  • Multi-variate optimization
  • Neighborhood-scale
  • Optimization
  • Social sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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