Mass Customize Housing with Computation

Department: Architecture
Research Centre: iLab
Active Dates: July 2010 - June 2012, July 2013 - June 2014

Principal Investigator: Yan GAO
Funding body: Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research


The proposed research project was the first to investigate open source design for high density housing in Hong Kong with computation and information modeling. It has the potential to change current model from mass standardization to mass customization, echoing the PRC State Council “Made in China 2025” strategy aimed at transforming China into a leading world manufacturing power. This research project proposes a new design methodology, entitled Intelligent Computational Design (ICD) with computational automation and information modeling. We aim to develop a proof of concept process for allowing future occupants to specify the design parameters for individual units, which are subject to mass design and industrial production. This project has applied the methods including but not limit to Relative Parametric Modeling, Negotiated Space Exploration, Evolutional Many-criteria Optimization, Graphic-based Fuzzy Computation, and Best Possible Solutions, at the scale of neighborhood, building and unit.


  1. To develop a proof of concept process for allowing occupants to specify the parameters of designs for individual units that is subject to mass design and industrial production.
  2. To codify design expert knowledge into parametric information models so that design variations can respond to users’ customizations automatically according to the relationship defined between the data input and the geometric outputs.


A series of Computational Models (CM) of housing capable of automatically generating unit aggregation based on collective rules. All the units must be aggregated in conjunction with a series of computational massing models, responding to the specific urban context as scenarios.


  • Yan Gao, Chang Qiang, Lo Tiantian, Integrated Open Source Design for Architecture in High Density Housing Practice, Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture, published by David Publishing Company, New York, 2015.9, ISSN Number: 1934-7359.
  • Yan Gao, Yunsheng Su, Computational Design Research for High Density Social Housing in China, Journal of Engineering Technology (JET), published by The Global Science and Technology Forum, Singarpore, Volume: 2, May 2013, ISSN Number: 2251-3701.
  • Tian Tian Lo, Marc Aurel Schnabel, Yan Gao, ModRule: A User-Centric Mass Housing Design Platform, CAAD Futures 2015 – The Next City, Sao Paulo, 2015
  • Tian Tian Lo, Marc Aurel Schnabel, Yan Gao, Collaborative Mass Housing Design Practice with Smart Model, Digital Infiltration, Digital Architecture: computation, Generation, Optimization, Fabrication, Construction and Management, The 1st International Conference of the Digital Architecture Design Association, Tsinghua University, 2013.
  • E-dot, The First Prize (Overall Category), in collaboration with Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning & Design Institute DODOV Chengdu, 1 Unit, 100 Families, 10,000 Residents, The Ideas Competition for Social Housing in Shen ,China, 2012.

Anticipated Impact

We hope to provide design methodologies and tool sets to substantiate the idea of mass customization in high-density housing, enabling the Hong Kong housing industry to lead an evolution in housing with a new housing supply model which transforms high-density housing design into a transparent evolutionary process from minority-controlled empirical patterns to majority participatory customization.

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