Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series



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One of the goals of The Green New Deal Resolution reads, “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”

How can this realistically be done given the sheer number of buildings in the United States? This presents a ‘wicked’ problem that calls out for a systems approach. This is also, in essence, a design problem. As data scientists we are used to using models to analyze data but there is another aspect to these models that can be used not to analyze data but to create data. Typically, this is verboten in the field of data science but in this talk we actively pursue this potential of modeling. Some buzzwords which describe the perceived polemic are: Qualitativequantitative / explorationexploitation / generativediscriminative / change makingsense-making / acquiring / purging. Specifically, we investigate algorithmic design using fractal dimension as an objective function for a genetic algorithm applied to a real-world architectural problem. The project is for a ~70,000 sq. ft. mixed-use affordable residential and street-level retail project in downtown Ithaca, NY. The thesis uses an IRB format to apply scientific rigor to the juried critique. A panel of licensed architects are participating asynchronously with feedback which will be presented along with the models. This talk will be a walk-through of pin-up #2 prior to its presentation to jurors.

Biographical Information

John Driscoll ( is a senior designer in architecture and historic preservation. John has a BA in Architecture and a B.Arch from UNC Charlotte as well as an MS in Systems Science, and is currently a PhD candidate in Systems Science at PSU. John has attended programs at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture at Taliesin West and CSSS at the Santa Fe Institute. Publications include, “City Population dynamics and fractal transport Networks,” Proceedings of the Santa Fe Institute, 2013, and “Fractal cartography of Portland Oregon,” Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and the Life Sciences, 2014. John’s design work has been exhibited at The Heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright American Organic Architecture, Romanian Conference of Architecture and Design in 2010. After over 10 years in the field of architecture, John chose to augment his design background with analytic experience in data science and systems thinking. His goal is to apply theory and methods from systems science and complexity science to research and to apply algorithmic design in architecture. Cellular automata, fractal geometry, agent-based modeling and genetic algorithms are some of the ideas explored in his work.


Three-dimensional modeling -- Computer software -- Development, Genetic algorithms -- Applications to architectural design, Fractals, System theory


Architectural Engineering | Environmental Design

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Fractal Dimension as Objective Function in a Genetic Algorithm for Application in Architectural Design