April 25, 2024

DraftInsights for Integrating Design and Analysis in Rhino

Summary: This article discusses DraftInsights, a tool integrated into Rhino 7, which empowers architects to seamlessly integrate sustainability analysis into their design workflows, democratizing sustainability considerations and streamlining the design process for more environmentally conscious buildings.

The rising demand for high-performance structures is pressuring AEC professionals to efficiently deliver sustainable projects, highlighting the importance of data-driven design and iterative processes in navigating project evolution and informing team decisions.

We recently had an interview with Mikkel Steenberg, the founder of Draft Lab, where we explored DraftInsights, a powerful tool designed to support sustainability, analysis, and parametric modeling for a non-technical audience. We were impressed by the results achieved during early prototyping, and hope that this article inspires AEC professionals to adopt an information-driven design approach.

1) What motivated the development of DraftInsights, and how does it address existing gaps or challenges in architectural software tools? Why is the name Draftinsights?

My background as a computational designer and sustainability engineer exposed a common challenge: a lack of early-stage sustainability analysis in architectural projects. Across various locations and project phases, I observed environmental concerns like daylight access, overheating, and wind tunneling being sidelined due to perceived difficulty or cost of dedicated sustainability studies.

This gap motivated the development of DraftInsights. The core concept is to empower all architects, regardless of technical expertise, to seamlessly integrate sustainability analysis into their existing design workflows. DraftInsights functions directly within the familiar Rhino 7 environment, eliminating the need for separate software or consultants.

The name DraftInsights reflects this philosophy. It captures the ability to gain valuable sustainability insights "on the go" during the initial design sketching phase, fostering a more iterative and environmentally conscious design process.

DraftInsights previewing environmental analysis and site context interfaces.
Fig.1) DraftInsights previewing environmental analysis and site context interfaces

2) How does Draftinsights contribute to sustainability initiatives within the AEC industry?

It makes it easier for non technical architects to get feedback on early stage designs, which in turn makes their design more resilient.  As an example; noise pollution is one of the most dangerous environmental threats to health, and with DraftInsights it’s possible to run noise analysis directly in their model allowing them to arrange building masses just right to lower the exposure for all residents.

DraftInsights contributes to AEC industry sustainability initiatives in several ways:

  • Democratization of Sustainability Analysis: By offering user-friendly, in-software analysis, DraftInsights empowers even non-technical architects to consider and improve the environmental impact of their designs. This broader integration of sustainability principles from the outset of a project can lead to more environmentally responsible buildings.

  • Early-Stage Design Feedback: DraftInsights provides immediate feedback on design choices, enabling architects to identify and address potential sustainability issues during the crucial initial sketching phase. This iterative approach allows for adjustments that can significantly improve a building's environmental performance.

  • Specific Example: DraftInsights allows architects to analyze noise pollution within their models. This empowers them to experiment with different design iterations. For example, they could virtually adjust building massing to act as a sound barrier or explore alternative layouts to position quieter areas away from noise sources. By visualizing the impact of these adjustments in real-time, architects can make informed decisions to minimize noise exposure for residents from the very beginning of the design process.

Overall, the tool fosters a more sustainable design process by integrating environmental considerations into the core of architectural workflows, empowering a wider range of architects to make informed decisions for a greener future.

DraftInsights visualizing occupancy privacy based on various window selections
Fig.2) DraftInsights visualizing occupancy privacy based on various window selections

3) How does your solution streamline sustainability analysis within Rhino 7, and what specific benefits does this integration offer to architects?

DraftInsights integrates seamlessly with Rhino 7, a popular modeling software known for its flexible and creative environment. However, Rhino's core functionality is not inherently tailored for architectural sustainability analysis. For advanced capabilities, architects traditionally rely on external tools or scripting languages like Grasshopper.

DraftInsights bridges this gap by offering architects the following benefits:

  • Accessibility for Non-Technical Users: DraftInsights empowers architects without extensive coding knowledge to leverage sustainability analysis directly within their Rhino workflows. The user-friendly interface eliminates the need to learn complex scripting languages like Grasshopper, making sustainability considerations more accessible.

  • Integrated Design & Analysis: By functioning within Rhino, DraftInsights fosters a more iterative design process. Architects can make design changes, receive immediate sustainability feedback, and refine their models accordingly – all within a single environment. This integrated approach streamlines the workflow and allows for a more holistic design process.

  • Unlocking Rhino's Potential: DraftInsights leverages the power of Rhino by providing additional analytical capabilities without compromising Rhino's core strengths. Architects can continue to benefit from Rhino's familiar interface and extensive modeling functionality while incorporating sustainability considerations into their designs.

In essence, the solution empowers a wider range of architects to leverage Rhino's creative environment for design while seamlessly integrating essential sustainability analysis tools.

DraftInsights alternating LOD and feature visuals
Fig.3) DraftInsights alternating LOD and feature visuals

4) How does Draftinsights differentiate itself from other similar solutions in the market?

Our solution stands out from competitors by integrating directly within Rhino as a local application. This keeps architects in their familiar design environment, eliminating the need to switch between software or upload models to cloud platforms. This streamlined approach allows for real-time feedback as you design, accelerating the workflow.

5) Can you explain how DraftInsights’ parametric objects enhance the design process, particularly regarding facade design, parking layout, and metrics optimization?

DraftInsights cuts through the complexity of parametric design, making it accessible to users of all experience levels. Previously, creating and adjusting building facades in Rhino could take hours or even days. Now, architects can simply click a button to populate basic geometry with various facade options. This allows for rapid iteration through design possibilities.

Facade Wrapper feature enabling quick modeling with DraftInisghts
Fig.4) Facade Wrapper feature enabling quick modeling with DraftInisghts

6) Can you share any success stories or case studies where Draftinsights impacted a project’s sustainability or design outcomes?

DraftInsights has shown it’s usefulness already from the initial prototype, where it replaced slow engineering analysis with a live feedback to the architect, allowing them to model a complex building shape that not only improved neighboring pedestrian ore, but also made a very precise overlaps on the building facade, so the building only received direct sunlight during helpfull hours, where the building was in need of heat. This was all accomplished within a few days for a competition.

DraftInsights' impact on project design and sustainability is evident from its early stages. In a prototype phase, it replaced time-consuming engineering analysis with real-time feedback for the architect. This enabled them to design a complex building shape that achieved multiple benefits:

  • Improved pedestrian experience: The design optimized the surrounding pedestrian environment.

  • Enhanced solar heat gain: The facade design strategically captured sunlight during beneficial hours to meet the building's heating needs.

These significant improvements were achieved within a tight timeframe for a competition project, showcasing the transformative power of DraftInsights.

7) How is DraftInsights planning to stay updated with evolving sustainability standards and architectural trends to ensure its relevance in the industry?

Over 60% of development goes towards implementing the most requested user features. The remaining 40% focuses on creating new sustainability tools, often in collaboration with architectural studios and other external partners. This user-centric approach ensures DraftInsights stays at the forefront of architectural trends and delivers the tools architects need most.

DraftInsights’ parametric modeling capabilities and components library
Fig.5) DraftInsights’ parametric modeling capabilities and components library

8) What are the primary benefits that clients typically experience when implementing DraftInsights into their workflow?

A smooth detailing process when it comes to sustainability questions, by having designed the building masses and facades with an information driven design, many of the normal issues, such a lack of daylight, overheating, privacy concerns etc. Are already taken care of in the initial design phase. Which in the end saves a lot of manhours and the overall project ends up being more cohesive, instead of late stage patchwork solutions.

By leveraging information-driven design during the crucial massing and facade stages, many common sustainability issues are addressed upfront. This proactive approach tackles potential problems like inadequate daylight, overheating, and privacy concerns right from the start.

The benefits are twofold:

  • Reduced Rework: Addressing sustainability early on minimizes the need for late-stage "patchwork" solutions. This saves significant time and resources, streamlining the detailing process and improving overall project efficiency.

  • Enhanced Cohesion: Information-driven design ensures a more cohesive final product. Building elements like masses and facades are designed with sustainability in mind, leading to a more integrated and environmentally conscious outcome.

In essence, DraftInsights empowers architects to bake sustainability into the DNA of their projects, leading to a smoother detailing process, a more cohesive design, and ultimately, a project with a positive environmental impact.

Fig.6) DraftInsights enabling quick toggling between LODs
Fig.6) DraftInsights enabling quick toggling between LODs

9) What are the user's main challenges in adopting your product?

The primary challenge users face in adopting DraftInsights is the potential lack of experience with information-driven design (IDD). While IDD offers significant benefits, some studios might be new to this approach. Our experience shows that architects quickly learn and appreciate the value of IDD within their projects, particularly when they see the immediate advantages it brings.

10) How user-friendly is Draftinsights for architects who may not have extensive experience with sustainability analysis or parametric design?

The product is specifically designed to be user-friendly for architects, even those without extensive experience in sustainability analysis or parametric design. We've prioritized a user-friendly interface and streamlined workflows to minimize the need for external assistance. Currently, sustainability analyses can be run with just a single click, as we've taken care of inputting default parameters. As users gain experience and seek more control, they can easily override these defaults for customization.

We're also actively developing comprehensive learning resources, including video tutorials. These resources will not only guide users through using the tool effectively but also help them understand the analysis results and effectively communicate their value to clients.

Comfort Designer feature explains impact of design to thermal comfort
Fig.7) Comfort Designer feature explains impact of design to thermal comfort

11) How does Draftinsights adapt to different types, sizes and locations of projects?

DraftInsights can be used for projects of all types and sizes. The current tools are however especially good for urban and masterplan projects, as you can get a lot of data with very little geometry. DraftInsights is currently lacking indoor tools, but these will be added in the future. Projects can be used for any location on the globe, and will automatically adapt to the local parameters.

Certain data sources can however be lacking in some parts of the world, so weather data or context import might not be plentiful if you are working in China.DraftInsights is versatile and adaptable to projects of various types, sizes, and locations.

The plug-in is versatile and adaptable to projects of various types, sizes, and locations.

  • Project scope: DraftInsights caters well to both small and large-scale projects. It's particularly beneficial for urban and masterplan projects, where extensive data can be extracted from minimal geometry. While indoor-specific tools are forthcoming, DraftInsights currently focuses on outdoor environments.

  • Global applications: The software adapts to projects worldwide, automatically using relevant local parameters. It's important to note that data availability can vary by region. For instance, weather data or context import options might be limited in certain areas like China.

Alternating between sunlight hours, noise levels and sun radiation levels
Fig.8) Alternating between sunlight hours, noise levels and sun radiation levels

12) How do you charge clients?

DraftInsights employs a cost-effective yearly subscription model granting full access to all features. The licenses are floating, allowing studios to share them among multiple users, as long as they aren't used simultaneously. This means a studio can purchase a set number of licenses and have team members use them on a rotating basis, maximizing value.

13) How do you ensure the security and privacy of data collected and processed by DraftInsights?

We prioritizes data security and privacy. We adhere to the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) guidelines. To ensure compliance, we engaged an external IT consultancy to guide our data collection setup. It's important to emphasize that DraftInsights only collects anonymized statistical data. This data is primarily used for error identification and performance optimization, ultimately benefiting the user experience.

14) What future developments or enhancements do you envision for DraftInsights?

We envision a wide selection of tools and analysis ranging from biodiversity analysis to parametric structures. At the moment we have several large things on the drawing board such as terrain, CO2 designer and certification checker. We are however also focusing on smaller tools, which the users are asking for, to help them with their everyday small problems.

DraftInsights has an exciting roadmap for future development, encompassing a broad spectrum of tools and analyses. Our vision includes capabilities like biodiversity analysis and parametric structural design, alongside features to streamline workflows for everyday tasks. Here are some highlights:

  • Expanded analysis capabilities: We're actively developing tools for diverse analyses, ranging from CO2 emissions assessment to certification compliance checking.

  • Enhanced design functionalities: Parametric structural design capabilities are on the horizon, empowering architects with greater creative freedom.

  • User-driven refinements: We're committed to incorporating user feedback, continuously adding smaller tools that address common workflow challenges.


Leveraging Rhino, DraftInsights increases productivity for Information-Driven Design (IDD) based workflows, and encourages a sustainable design approach with its simple user interface. Given how useful the tool has been even during its prototyping stages, we are excited for the workflows towards sustainable design that are now possible. Their page is now live on our platform, inviting AEC professionals to check it out!