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Topology Optimization for Shear Wall Layout

Master's thesis

Advisor: Prof. Caitlin Mueller


In the design of tall buildings, the lateral system that resists wind and seismic loading usually dominates the structural engineering effort; therefore, optimal lateral system design is important for material efficiency. This research intends to accelerate the conventional design process for shear wall layout with an optimization system involving a ground structure program formulation, a modified evolutionary algorithm, and innovative computational techniques. Unlike existing work that focuses either exclusively on structural performance or architectural layout, this research integrates both. An efficient computational design methodology for shear wall layout in plan is introduced. The method minimizes structural weight with constraints on torsion, flexural strength, shear strength, drift, and openings and accessibility. It can be applied from the very beginning of floor plan design or after generating an architectural floor plan.


A novel ground structure approach has been developed which starts from quadrilateral mesh with edges representing lateral system components in plan-view.


This research boosts the diversity of shear wall designs and extends the application of parametric design. The system, developed in the environment of Python, is compatible with a large variety of buildings, from low-rise to high-rise, from wide to tall (aspect ratio), from office to residential, and from box to irregularly-shaped. And, it can be incorporated flexibly either before or after the preliminary design of architectural floorplan.


The methodology optimizes over a wide range of possible structural layouts using a modified evolutionary algorithm (EA). The optimization process aims to minimize structural weight with constraints on torsional effect, flexural strength, shear strength, and openings and accessibility.


The directional paring and mutation process encourages inheritance of advantageous features and triggers beneficial changes to each generation


This research also proposes general solutions for unaddressed problems. With respect to structural performance, a simplified auto-calculation system for reinforced concrete design considering cracking has been established and applied, reducing computation cost for the optimization process, and filling the blank in the design codes regarding irregularly configured shear walls.


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