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Using Axiomatic Design for the Temporary Housing of Refugees

As we mentioned in a previous blogpost, being a university professor at Masdar Institute sometimes presents opportunities to work on really interesting problems.  One such opportunity arose out of the ESM 501 System Architecture class in which students are encouraged to use Axiomatic Design towards final projects about their ongoing research.  Naturally, when Lindsey Gilbert presented to Prof. Farid the idea of using Axiomatic Design to help house refugees, he became quite interested.

We see many humanitarian crises around the world that sadly generate refugee populations.  Syria, Darfur, Pakistan and the Philippines are but a few trying examples.  The humanitarian challenge of meeting the basic needs of these refugee populations ultimately translates to a design challenge as well.  How can these refugees be quickly sheltered in adequate housing?   Refugee housing — by nature — is temporary.  It must be easily erected in response to the dynamic conditions but also just as easily dismantled to avoid the creation of ghettos long after the news cycle has shifted its spotlight to some other purpose.  But the temporary nature of this housing can not diminish the need for durability.  While the often depicted footage of refugee tents give some protection from the elements, rarely can these “first-responding” structures last for more than week or two.  For refugees, the road to normalcy begins with more solid structures that provide a sense of physical and emotional security — a place from which to literally rebuild.

Lindsey Gilbert’s work used Axiomatic Design to propose temporary housing built up of reconfigurable modules arranged into a product platform.  It also recognized that a good design would have to avoid the “one-size-fits-all” pitfalls of many “first-responding” structures.  At the heart of the concept was a “studio” module serving all of a person’s basic needs.   More advanced modules such as a bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms could be attached with standard interfaces to respond to the customized needs of couples and larger refugee families.  The work was ultimately published in the 2013 International Conference on Axiomatic Design and received an honorable mention for best paper.  The full text can be found through the LIINES website publication page.

Interestingly, Lindsey Gilbert’s work represented one of the first times that Axiomatic Design had been applied to a civil engineering application domain.   Present in the room were the organizers of the 2nd International Workshop on Design in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  Lindsey’s work drew sufficient attention that he was ultimately invited to write a second paper on the application of axiomatic design to civil engineering applications.

As part of his master’s research, Lindsey continues to develop the design of his temporary housing concept and hopes that it will ultimately lead to practical benefits for future migrant populations.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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GAMS Developement @ the LIINES — Practical Implementation Advice on Mac OS X, Linux and Windows

One major disciplinary expertise at the Laboratory for the Intelligent Integrated Networks for Engineering Systems is operations management and research.  Naturally, using optimization techniques in the form of mathematical programming is an essential aspect of this competence.  One really useful software package to allow the straightforward numerical optimization is the General Algebraic Modeling System (GAMS) and it has been used extensively in the smart power grid application domain.  Many researchers in the field also link Matlab to GAMS using the former for data processing and results visualization and the latter as a solver.

The implementations at the LIINES, however, have some challenging implementation demands.  For example, model predictive control problems require the solution of a numerical optimization at every discrete time step simulation evolution.  When Matlab calls GAMS — on the Windows platform — it spawns a new graphical user interface integrated development environment (GUI-IDE) window (and all associated dynamic link libraries).  This slows down simulation tremendously.  Even worse, the Windows OS may not be able to reliably handle these repeated calls leading to a crash of the simulation.  Trust us, when you are many hours into a fully automatic simulation, that’s hardly what you are looking for.

Fortunately, the GAMS version of Linux and Mac OS X does not have a GUI-IDE and runs purely from the command line.  We have found this to be not just faster for simulation but also much more stable when tied to MATLAB.  We highly suggest this approach.

Now some will say, that they need the GAMS GUI-IDE for development.  We agree that this can be useful!  Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds.  Use the command line native Linux/Mac OS X version for reliable simulation.  In the meantime, a Windows version installed over WINE can be used purely for development.  The GAMS support page provides very clear installation instructions here.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Prof. Amro M. Farid participates in MIT Workshop on Modeling Social, Technical and Natural Systems for Policy

On September 25-27, Prof. Amro M. Farid participated in an invited workshop entitled:  “Modeling Social, Technical and Natural Systems for Policy” as organized by the MIT Engineering Systems Division.  This goal of this workshop was to catalyze a larger community of research and practice interested in technology, policy and related issues.  There is a need for researchers, academics and practitioners in technology, science and policy to increasingly develop common methods in education, research and practice.

 

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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Prof. Amro M. Farid gives invited lecture at U.of Connecticut Mechanical Engineering Department

On September 24th, Prof. Amro M. Farid gave an invited lecture at the University of Connecticut Mechanical Engineering department.  The goal of the lecture entitled “Applications of Axiomatic Design for Large Flexible Systems” strove to demonstrate how Axiomatic Design may be practically applied.  After a tutorial on the subject, the lecture highlighted the recent LIINES research on the application of Axiomatic Design to Temporary Housing and Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems.

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LIINES Websitehttp://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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