8 Must-Have Applications for Effective Simulations In Architectural Design

The advance in building technologies means professionals working in the architectural design industry have many moving parts to consider and coordinate.

To validate how a proposed design for a building would perform, you need to understand how all the systems interact and work together under a variety of real-world scenarios.

Architects, designers, and engineers can now address the complexity of modern design challenges by modeling a structure using advanced simulation software applications.

A series of well-run simulations can help you identify potential issues early in the design process, so less time and resources need to be allocated when fixing challenges and making adjustments down the road.


“Must-Have” Simulation Tools for the Architectural Industry

For generating meaningful analyses during the early design stages, many simulation tools allow for intelligent simplifications to deliver a basic understanding of building performance and an accurate representation of the essential properties of a building.

To ensure that you’re covering essential scenarios well, consider these eight must-have applications for creating the most effective simulations in architectural design:

1. Geometry and Data Modeling

Using CAD and BIM applications, a 3D model is created to reflect the geometry and details of a structure and provide an overall sense of the spatial experience. This model also forms the basis for further modeling and simulation.

2. Energy and Thermal Simulation

Climate analysis takes into account factors such as incident solar radiation and wind to help predict the impact on the architectural design with respect to energy consumption, emissions, and overall building performance.

3. Daylighting Simulation

Daylighting simulation helps anticipate natural light quality, shadows, and the overall comfort of the occupants based on a space’s geometry and material surfaces.

Since lighting has a significant influence on the spatial experience, this simulation is an important tool for many practitioners during design development to explore how a space would be perceived.

4. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Simulation

Such simulation tools provide accurate and flexible fluid flow and heat transfer analysis to model airflow inside and outside of a building to help predict comfort.

CFD can aid with site planning; for example, building orientation to maximize the effectiveness of natural ventilation and determine the effects of canyoning on pedestrian comfort. The effects of solar loading can also be determined to assess indoor comfort.

CFD can also analyze the air flow inside the building, which will help accurately determine how a building needs to be heated and cooled.

5. HVAC Simulation

Using CFD models, engineers can optimize their designs to achieve operational goals by controlling microclimates, thermal comfort, draft rating, and air quality compliance.

This simulation method can help mitigate many building design challenges, including air changes per hour, thermal comfort, volatile material ventilation, emissions tracking, fire safety, and emergency evacuation.

6. Building Simulation

The energy demand associated with building design is affected by the many interacting subsystems, such as occupants, electrical equipment, and indoor and outdoor climate.

Building simulation is often applied early in the design process to compare design alternatives and aid in selecting the most energy efficient option to minimize resource consumption and greenhouse gas emission.

7. Structural Simulation

Advanced building simulation and structural analysis can help determine the effects of loads on simple and complex structures to ensure that the structural design is meeting required building codes.

8. Mechanical Simulation

Using Finite Element Analysis (FEA), you can optimize designs by predicting performance through linear, nonlinear, thermal, and dynamic analysis.


How to Get the Most Out of Your Simulation Software Applications

The selection of the appropriate simulation software depends in part on how far along you are in the design process.

Tools that provide real-time feedback and order-of-magnitude comparisons are most commonly used during the conceptual and schematic design phases while applications that offer a higher degree of accuracy are more suitable for later phases.

To get the most out of your simulation tools, remember to:

  • Frame the simulation exercises with the right questions so you can run the most illustrative scenarios.
  • Use a solid mix of simulation tools to address the complexity of modern architectural design.
  • Consider working with simulation experts, who have access to the latest software applications and can create the right models to achieve objectives such as reducing excessive building materials or reduce energy consumption in buildings. 

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