Subtractive building massing for performance-based architectural design exploration: A case study of daylighting optimization

Likai Wang, Patrick Janssen, Kian Wee Chen, Ziyu Tong*, Guohua Ji*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


For sustainable building design, performance-based optimization incorporating parametric modelling and evolutionary optimization can allow architects to leverage building massing design to improve energy performance. However, two key challenges make such applications of performance-based optimization difficult in practice. First, due to the parametric modelling approaches, the topological variability in the building massing variants is often very limited. This, in turn, limits the scope for the optimization process to discover high-performing solutions. Second, for architects, the process of creating parametric models capable of generating the necessary topological variability is complex and time-consuming, thereby significantly disrupting the design processes. To address these two challenges, this paper presents a parametric massing algorithm based on the subtractive form generation principle. The algorithm can generate diverse building massings with significant topological variability by removing different parts from a predefined volume. Additionally, the algorithm can be applied to different building massing design scenarios without additional parametric modelling being required. Hence, using the algorithm can help architects achieve an explorative performance-based optimization for building massing design while streamlining the overall design process. Two case studies of daylighting performance optimizations are presented, which demonstrate that the algorithm can enhance the exploration of the potential in building massing design for energy performance improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6965
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Building massing design
  • Daylighting
  • Design exploration
  • Parametric massing algorithm
  • Passive energy savings
  • Performance-based optimization
  • Subtractive form generation principle


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