Module 2: Structure and Form Experimentation

safas sample structure

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SAFAS is an Extensible 3D (X3D) web-enabled application built using open standards and open-source tools such as Xj3D, Java Swing and Apache. We continue to develop features and knowledgebase integration with the SAFAS tool. We are evaluating and improving the tool through class usage in Junior year architecture studio and lecture classes at Virginia Tech and with our partner universities.

RESOURCES (updated May 30, 2014):

  • Download alpha SAFAS client application software (version 1.7) for your platform below:

  • Windows
    • Installer - ! New ! this will check your version of Java, and download one as needed; A SAFAS shortcut will also be added to your Start Menu and Desktop

      If you are using Windows-based computers, you should load the SAFAS Installer!

      IMPORTANT NOTE: Before running SAFAS, please make sure to update the graphics driver for your computer video card!


    • Java Jars (zipped)
  • Mac OS X (Intel) Java Jar (zipped)
  • Linux i586 Java Jar (zipped)
  • Linux amd64 Java Jar (zipped)

- Make sure you have the latest graphics driver for your video card
- Make sure you have the latest version of java installed in your machine.
- To run the SAFAS , click on the shortcut on your desktop (if you have used the installer) or just open the file named 'safas.jar'
- If you have any issues or you do not know how to perform any of these steps, go to the FAQ page. If you cannot fix the issue or if your issue is not listed there, please email


We continue to evaluate, refine and improve the SAFAS codebase and functionality.
The current build provides :
  • Specification and construction of a spatial structure (l, w, h) based on one of 11 repeating units
  • Addition of column elements
  • Show/Hide solid decking on top, bottom layers
  • Direct-manipulation deformation of the spatial structure
    • parameterized Sphere and Cylinder deformers
    • graphical response-curve editor
    • can effect top, bottom layer or both
  • Computation of initial loading
  • Save structure to SAP-4 / SAP-2000 input format
  • Load structural simulation results from SAP file (load, tension, compression; initial mapping shows simulation result values as color-per-node, color-per-member and displacement)


Setareh, M., Bacim, F., Jones, B.D., Polys, N. F., Geng, T., Orsa, B. “Integrating Web-based Visualization with Structural System Understanding to Improve the Technical Education of Architects.” Journal of Online Engineering Education 3(2).

Nicholas F. Polys, Felipe Bacim, Mehdi Setareh, and Brett Jones. 2013. “Building novel Web3D user interfaces: a case study from architecture and structural engineering”. In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on 3D Web Technology (Web3D '13). ACM, San Sebastian ES, 135-138.

F. Bacim, E. Ragan, S. Serbo, M. Setareh, B. D. Jones, N. Polys. “The Effects of Display Fidelity, Visual Complexity, and Task Scope on Spatial Understanding of 3D Graphs.” Proceedings of Graphics Interface, Regina, 2013. ISBN: 9781482216806

M. Setareh, F. Bacim, B. D. Jones, N. F. Polys, T. Geng, B. Orsa. “Integrating Web-based Visualization with Structural System Understanding to Improve the Technical Education of Architects.” Journal of Online Engineering Education 3(2).

Bacim, F., Polys, N., Chen, J., Setareh, M., Li, J., and Ma, L. “Cognitive scaffolding in Web3D learning systems: a case study for form and structure”. In Proceedings of the 15th international Conference on Web 3D Technology (Los Angeles, California, July 24 – 25, 2010). Web3D ’10. ACM, 2010.

Software Architecture

We built the client design software to with a Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture, which enables a clean separation of concerns between user interface and the system / data model. Currently, the SAFAS application is deployed as a cross-platform Java Jar with both 32 and 64 bit support.

client software architecture
The software architecture of the client tool.

Architecture of the SAFAS Client Server system

The overall architecture of our web-based client-server system.

We have set up a dedicated web server at Virginia Tech to support the accessibility of the SAP-4 simulator and the management of student projects, designs and simulations. Each user has a password-protected account and file space.

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