Introducing the VI-Suite

The VI-Suite is a set of environmental analysis tools presented to the user as a set of connectible ‘nodes’ within the 3D content creation suite Blender. Blender nodes have traditionally been used for the application of a sequence of post-production tasks on rendered images. More recently they have been used to define materials for Blender’s new physically based rendering system, and very recently nodes, and the nodetrees that they sit in, have become user programmable with Blender’s scripting language Python. It is this latter development that is leveraged here.

I have previously written two Blender based interfaces for environmental analysis: LiVi, for lighting simulation with Radiance, and EnVi for energy simulation with EnergyPlus. As these interfaces became more advanced it became increasingly difficult to see how I could easily manage communication between these types of analyses e.g. using accurate solar radiation data from LiVi in the temperature calculations of EnVi. It also became difficult to envisage how the data generated by these analyses could be used to flexibly manipulate geometric form for environmental parametric and generative design studies. This is where a node based system comes in very handy. By having analyses broken down in to a set of modular nodes, the user can connect these nodes as they wish, for example modifying window size according to solar radiation or light levels and density of parametrically generated shading forms.

When combined with ancillary nodes like sun path and wind rose generators, shadow study node and glare analysis nodes the VI-Suite becomes a powerful holistic tool to explore interconnections between building form and performance.