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NBBJ Brings Human User Interface to the Masses

NBBJ was profiled in ARCHITECT for its release of a Human User Interface (UI) that brings parametric modeling to the masses. Computational design in architecture is difficult to understand unless a person happens to be a software developer, but even with parametric modeling and programming tools architects without coding skills can find themselves lost.

NBBJ released its Human UI, which is an open-source Grasshopper (a widely used visual programming language) plugin that creates intuitive graphical interfaces for adjusting the parameters of building models in Rhino (a CAD and 3D design software). San Francisco–based NBBJ Design Computation Leader, Marc Syp, who worked on the Human UI said, “The interface allows designers to build tools of any range of complexity and hand them off to other folks [such as consultants and clients] who are not necessarily going to open up a Grasshopper definition and fiddle around with stuff.” The plugin can work with any of the parameters available in Grasshopper, he added.

The application was used for an NBBJ client in healthcare to help plan for new facilities based on projected growth. The team used spreadsheets of data on population trends and growth and built a tool that allowed the client to estimate square footage needed for various services throughout its locations.

The Human UI has numerous other potential applications, ranging from the allocation of public space on a project site to varying an exterior wall thickness to calculate differences in construction cost.

NBBJ worked on the plugin for ten months before releasing it to the public along with its original code in order to build upon it. When asked if releasing the code would equate to a loss of competitive advantage, NBBJ said that it is the responsibility of computational designers to make their work more relevant to clients and designers alike.



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