Using CFD to Improve Building Design

We are doing more and more aero simulation work outside traditional transportation type clients.  Architectural and Engineering firms have huge opportunities in their MEP (Mechanical Electrical Plumbing) departments in using aero simulation to design more efficient buildings.

Computation Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is the modeling of air or fluid as it interacts with surrounding solids and can be a great tool in developing better buildings.  There are three common reasons for using CFD in building development.  The first is using CFD simulation tools allows MEP engineers to evaluate several approaches to mechanical building design quickly and at a low cost.  Second, CFD is used to mitigate design risk in complying with new building standards like LEED and others.  Lastly, by using CFD, you can prove you have the best design and win more work.

Typically, a CAD model of a building is the beginning of a CFD simulation.  CFD is the tool that is then used to conduct studies in:

  1. Ventilation study design
  2. Radiant heat/cooling
  3. Thermal stratification
  4. Design day studies
  5. Thermal comfort
  6. Solar loads
  7. Containment migration
  8. Stack reenactment
  9. Smoke visibility
  10. Stack effect
  11. Natural ventilation
  12. Wind/wake patterns
  13. Wind loading

 

Exhibit hall predicted human comfort level summer v winter
Exhibit hall predicted human comfort level summer v winter

Thermal comfort is one of the more interesting studies because we are placing virtual “people” in the building and determining the thermal comfort of not just the person but individual parts of their body because of the HVAC system in the building.  We can tell if a persons legs are cold in the space in the winter and if their face will be too hot in the summer.  We can actually see the air move, see the temperature change and know how the changes we are evaluating will effect the comfort of the people that have to be in the spaces we create.  The level of detail that can be developed quickly and at such a low cost is truly amazing.

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