Innovation That Matters

Delve uses machine learning to produce thousands of models for a project and measure the impact of different parameters on each of them | Photo source Sidewalk Labs

An urban design tool that explores millions of options

Computing & Tech

Sidewalk Labs' design product uses AI to deliver buildings and neighbourhoods that best meet precise parametres


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Spotted: Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs has launched a new urban design tool, called Delve. The platform uses machine learning to allow developers, architects and planners to rapidly identify design options that best match time, planning and cost constraints. The company hopes that it could allow city planners to take a wider variety of issues into account, and at an earlier stage in the design process. 

Delve takes advantage of the fact that, while every neighbourhood is unique, they all share many of the same components, such as buildings, open spaces, amenities, streets and energy infrastructure. Delve incorporates a model of these core components, and uses machine learning to explore “millions of design possibilities for a given project”. The algorithm then allows designers to apply different design constraints and impacts, to arrive at the most suitable design.

Designers can enter a wide variety of variables, such as gross floor area for commercial or residential use and height limits, along with “holistic” elements such as daylight in individual units, outdoor space and walkability to amenities. Delve then generates designs that meet these parameters, and grades them according to how well they meet the customers’ key priorities. 

Sidewalk Labs points out that, as well as potentially speeding up the design process, Delve allows designers to evaluate the overall quality of life of the different designs. Sidewalk Labs’ director of product management Okalo Ikhena has said: “Delve is providing developers and designers with superpowers! The tool is designed to greatly improve the capabilities of users by automating manual processes and focusing attention on key strategic decisions.”

Sidewalk Labs joins a large number of companies working to deliver more liveable and more energy-efficient cities. A Spanish firm recently developed a design for a self-sufficient city designed to withstand pandemics, and in Copenhagen, new neighbourhoods are being designed to emphasise biodiversity.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Explore more: Computing & Tech Innovations | Architecture & Design Innovations



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