Framework for Integrated Multi-Scale CFD Simulations in Architectural Design

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Virginia Tech

An important aspect in the process of architectural design is the testing of solution alternatives in order to evaluate them on their appropriateness within the context of the design problem. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis is one of the approaches that have gained popularity in the testing of architectural design solutions especially for purposes of evaluating the performance of natural ventilation strategies in buildings. Natural ventilation strategies can reduce the energy consumption in buildings while ensuring the good health and wellbeing of the occupants. In order for natural ventilation strategies to perform as intended, a number of factors interact and these factors must be carefully analysed. CFD simulations provide an affordable platform for such analyses to be undertaken. Traditionally, these simulations have largely followed the direction of Best Practice Guidelines (BPGs) for quality control. These guidelines are built around certain simplifications due to the high computational cost of CFD modelling. However, while the computational cost has increasingly fallen and is predicted to continue to drop, the BPGs have largely remained without significant updates. The need to develop a CFD simulation framework that leverages the contemporary and anticipates the future computational cost and capacity can, therefore, not be overemphasised. When conducting CFD simulations during the process of architectural design, the variability of the wind flow field including the wind direction and its velocity constitute an important input parameter. Presently, however, in many simulations, the wind direction is largely used in a steady state manner. It is assumed that the direction of flow downwind of a meteorological station remains constant. This assumption may potentially compromise the integrity of CFD modelling as in reality, the wind flow field is bound to be dynamic from place to place. In order to improve the accuracy of the CFD simulations for architectural design, it is therefore necessary to adequately account for this variability. This study was a two-pronged investigation with the ultimate objective of improving the accuracy of the CFD simulations that are used in the architectural design process, particularly for the design and analysis of natural ventilation strategies. Firstly, a framework for integrated meso-scale and building scale CFD simulations was developed. Secondly, the newly developed framework was then implemented by deploying it to study the variability of the wind flow field between a reference meteorological station, the Virginia Tech Airport, and a selected localized building scale site on the Virginia Tech campus. The findings confirmed that the wind flow field varies from place to place and showed that the newly developed framework was able to capture this variation, ultimately, generating a wind flow field characterization representative of the conditions prevalent at the localized building site. This framework can be particularly useful when undertaking de-coupled CFD simulations to design and analyse natural ventilation strategies in the building design process.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Wind Flow Field, Best Practice Guidelines (BPGs), Natural Ventilation, Architectural Design