Structural systems which combine elements of low stiffness into a stronger whole are naturally efficient as they exploit the most favourable characteristics of elements and materials. Their lightweight and slender characteristics make them very elegant structures but they are notoriously difficult to model and analyse. This is because the geometry is strictly dictated by the force flow and therefore necessitates a form-finding step and the usual assumption of a linear relationship between force and displacement is no longer valid due to the inherent large deformations. Furthermore, the form-finding and analysis steps are highly interconnected, which requires a particularly strong collaboration between the Architects and Engineers. However, current modelling and analysis software does not support that as it is either only useful for form-finding or the analysis is so cumbersome to set up that multiple design iterations become impractical.
In an attempt to improve this workflow, a plug-in called “K2Engineering” has been developed for the parametric modelling environment Grasshopper. This environment has specifically been chosen as it is familiar to both architects and engineers. K2Engineering offers the ability to analyse form-active structures in a much more interactive environment and thereby encourages an informed exploration in the early design stage. It is an extension of the physics constraint solver “Kangaroo2” developed by Daniel Piker, which is an ideal platform due to its stability with regard to handling high stiffness values and its solving strategy, which inherently deals with non-linear behaviour.