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Automated BIM-based process for wind engineering design collaboration

Mohammad Delavar1 , Girma T. Bitsuamlak1 , John K. Dickinson1 (), Leandro Malveira F. Costa2

Research Article
1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Western University Canada, London, Ontario, Canada
2. Department of Civil Engineering, Polytechnic School, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Abstract Keywords
Building information modeling (BIM) can be considered a collaborative design process that allows building information modeling (BIM),
all project stakeholders in different disciplines to contribute during the design phase of a BIM design collaboration,
construction project. However, interoperability issues between wind, structural engineering tools, BIM level of development,
and BIM design authoring software platforms have acted as a barrier to such collaborative design planar concept and floating LOD,
processes. This research pursued an evaluation-based approach to propose and develop a BIM engineering integration,
pre-engineered buildings (PEB),
workflow for resolving the interoperability issues as well as automating significant parts of the
computational wind engineering (CWE),
collaborative design process. In this paper, the development of an automated modelling system
computational fluid dynamic (CFD)
to facilitate integrated structural design and wind engineering analysis using BIM is presented.
The research was focused on pre-engineered building (PEB) as a case study. This research
Article History
introduces some novel BIM concepts to facilitate the implementation of automation in the model
Received: 29 October 2018
development processes. These concepts facilitate engineering analysis integration and overcome
Revised: 30 September 2019
challenges associated with creating and working with different level of development (LOD) Accepted: 23 October 2019
models. The proposed system uses a central element level database and outputs a 3D model of
the building and the computational domain for use by the computational fluid dynamics software. © Tsinghua University Press and
A BIM-based application program interface (API) and stand-alone software was developed to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany,
evaluate the proposed concepts and process and their feasibility. The results suggest a successful part of Springer Nature 2019
integration that could significantly improve the building design quality and further facilitate wind,
or other, engineering design collaborations. It is also observed that the resulting process could be
applied (extended) to the general architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.

1 Introduction that the ability to impact cost and functional capabilities of

a construction project decreases as the project progresses

Indoor/Outdoor Airflow
This paper describes a framework for, and implementation from design to operation phases. This reduction in design
of the integration of wind engineering into the design and
and Air Quality
flexibility occurs while the cost of making design changes
analysis process of pre-engineered buildings (PEB) based on increases as other established design decisions and details
building information modelling (BIM) standards, technologies have to be rechecked, modified or undone (Bolin 2015). The
and methodologies. The goal of this work is to improve the industry response to this realization was to leverage advancing
efficiency and outcomes of the PEB design process by using interoperability technology and standards (embodied in
established BIM interoperability mechanisms to allow for BIM) to start transforming the capital project process from
more customizable designs and integrate more analysis into Curve 3 to Curve 4 (Fig. 1) (Construction Users Roundtable
the process. 2004). Significant improvements in time to deliver, match to
The MacCleamy Curve (Fig. 1) (AIA 2007) illustrates client needs and quality of outcomes in many public and
the motivation behind increasing adoption of BIM and private capital projects have been observed as BIM technology
information technologies to improve the industry processes has matured and grown in breadth of application (AIA 2007).
used to delivered capital projects. In short, the figure shows In one example, better access and use of domain-specific

2 Delavar et al. / Building Simulation

multiple source construction, and related design analysis,

costing, and work sequencing activities during the PEB design
development process (CIC Pennsylvania State University
2010; Dung and Tarar 2012; Eadie et al. 2013).
Importantly, as PEB construction is often used for erecting
enclosures, a chief design consideration and cost contributor
is ensuring sufficient structural performance under various
environmental loads, particularly wind loads. Unfortunately,
across the broader construction sector, including those
domains that have adopted BIM, wind engineering remains
a specialty area with currently very limited examples of
integrated analysis functionality included in design tools
(Fukuda et al. 2015) and stand-alone analysis remains the
Fig. 1 MacLeamy curve on effort/effect vs. construction phases
normal practice. Typically, analysis involves tedious manual
modelling to create or revise application specific representations
analyses tools and performance simulations significantly of design scenarios before any load cases can be assessed.
improved the accessibility and accuracy of energy con- This imposes a significant barrier to repeated parametric
sumption predictions and allowed facility design to target analysis and any manual modelling short-cuts or errors can
reduced lifecycle energy consumption goals (CIC Pennsylvania limit the fidelity of results.
State University 2010). The integration of wind load analysis is further com-
Today, many residential, commercial and industrial plicated by the need to transfer any identified loads to the
construction projects are designed using mainstream design appropriate structural elements since PEB structures typically
and analysis software (i.e. software available from Autodesk, have sheathing mounted on tertiary elements which are in
Nemetschek, Bentley…) using BIM supported functionality turn supported by secondary, and primary construction
(Dodge Data & Analytics 2016). The capabilities of these elements. In early project design phases, limited, if any design
tools have progressed from assisted line drafting requiring information, will be available for most secondary or smaller
manual interpretation to developing data rich interoperable elements and this is a natural consequence of the progressive
models assembled from digital libraries of custom and development of projects and applies to all aspects of a design.
market procurable components. Effectively, BIM standards In fact, this is well-recognized as an aspect of BIM based
now allow for the reliable reuse of design information in design processes and is formalized in processes to deliver
many different tools used by industry and non-industry models with information progressing from lower to higher
stakeholders facilitating broad participation in all stages of levels of development (
projects, but especially during design development. Consequently, to effectively integrate wind load analysis
In contrast, PEB, also known as “Metal Buildings” into the BIM-based design process of PEB structures the
(consisting of three plate girder and cold form elements), authors also developed and incorporated into their framework
are usually created using proprietary fabrication and assembly implementation:
systems and are designed with associated proprietary design 1) An algorithm to automatically generate missing secondary
and analysis systems. Notably, these custom PEB design or tertiary elements (allowing rapid transition between
and configuration systems typically support rapid (semi-) low and higher levels of design development), and
automated design development, cost estimation and basic 2) A process to automatically generate appropriate CFD
structural analysis. However, they have limited capability for models from BIM representations of PEB designs that
project customization, incorporating existing or alternate uses reference planes to support mapping wind loads back
supplier construction or including external analysis results onto the model.
like wind loads, energy consumption or noise. This means For testing and validation, the complete BIM-based
that PEB projects requiring customization generally need to integrated PEB design framework was implemented using
rely on manual design development, including creating design the Autodesk Revit API and the standalone CFD analysis
and analytical models separately from scratch. package Wind Engineering Data Analysis (WEDA) (Delavar
The authors have sought to address these challenges by 2017). The result software implementation allows designed to
developing and implementing an integrated BIM-enabled develop customized PEB structures, supported by integrated
design workflow for the PEB industry. The developed wind load analysis, including wind load visualization in the
framework builds upon the existing capabilities of BIM Revit design environment. Furthermore, as the final design
representations and workflows to support design customization, is available as a standard BIM model, all the typical mainstream
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 3

tools for generating bills of materials, estimating costing, methods of model development tend to be time-consuming
establishing work packages, etc. are available to support and labor intensive, especially when multiple engineering
execution of the construction project. analyses (even when using BIM integration) are expected
as a regular part of the development. Complicating this is
2 BIM integration with engineering analysis/design the fact that overly detailed models, with higher LODs, are
required for some types of analysis, like cost, and often simpler
For the construction sector in general, both technical and or derivative analytical models are required for many types
non-technical challenges still exist in deploying BIM in of engineering analysis. This creates a need for managing
engineering design processes. Non-technical challenges are contrasting LOD of models to support different engineering
encountered due to the paradigm shift in the design process design tasks.
and tools for engineers (and engineering firms) currently This paper proposes a framework based on BIM
utilizing traditional CAD or non-BIM design systems. Also, interoperability and a workflow that incorporates automation
engineering firms are understandably hesitant to transfer in design development to provide solutions for these existing
to high LOD models due to risks regarding the intellectual barriers. A pre-engineered building (PEB) project is used as
property of their designs (reserved for fabrication) and new a case study to illustrate the approach to integrate structural
liabilities arising from potential inaccuracies or inappropriate design and wind engineering analysis. It is worth noting that
uses of exchanged models (Delavar 2017). the PEB sector is mostly driven by structural engineering
The primary technology challenge comes from the considerations which directly relate to performance and
contrasting levels of maturity of design applications in the cost outcomes of projects. Never-the-less, the results of this
construction sector, and their differing abilities to share work can be applied beyond the case study domain to the
data with other platforms (Eastman et al. 2011). Despite general AEC industry where integrating analysis or manual
ongoing efforts by international BIM organizations such as design development causes process bottlenecks.
buildingSMART (BuildingSMART Organization 2016) for
standardizing BIM processes and input/output formats, the 2.1 Resolution for LOD challenges
interoperability between many analysis systems used by
engineers is still impeded by these issues. These challenges As illustrated in Fig. 2, the general objective of automating
are exacerbated for less common engineering disciplines, such the process in this research was to reduce the time required
as PEB design or wind-engineering (Delavar et al. 2016; for a design model to be developed to a required LOD for
Eadie et al. 2013). the model element positions and associated information.
Figure 2 illustrates how designs are progressively developed The results of the earlier research done by Delavar et al.
to higher LODs in a traditional non-automated digital design (Delavar 2017, Chapter 4) had determined that LOD300, as
process in comparison to a proposed (semi-)automated digital described in AIA’s G202 document and NYC’s guideline
design process. Note that traditional, dominantly manual, specifications (AIA 2013; Bloomberg et al. 2012), was identified

Fig. 2 Challenges in existing BIM (preferred automated BIM system vs. traditional non-automated BIM system) (Delavar 2017, Chapter 4)
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as an ideal LOD due to its balance of utility/value of the structural analysis models) and thus lack 3D geometry and
models and the resources invested in developing them. As the equivalent snap points. If this is not properly accounted
such, LOD300 would thus be an appropriate initial target for, any analysis models derived from these groupings
output for any automated design process. The input for the of elements are unlikely to represent the design scenario
development process could be any lower LOD. effectively. This could undermine any efforts at integrating
The “Floating LOD” concept was proposed (Delavar analysis into the automated PEB design development
2017) to deal with cases where different LOD requirements processes.
arise for different model uses. In short, this “Floating LOD” The “Planar Concept” relies on introducing three different
concept proposes allowing the automated design processes classifications of building elements based on their application
to be reversible allowing the generation of high or low as shown in Fig. 3. Planar offsets linked to their classification
LOD models as required. This approach was realized using define their relative location a reference plane and thus to
parametric BIM object families that linked high-level PEB the primary structural element. This approach allows for the
systems (defined as system families by Autodesk (Autodesk transfer of any structural or thermal load to the building
2016a)) to their sub-component compositions when such systems through facade elements (an engineering design
detail is required. Further discussion of this “Floating LOD” concept). Similar reference planes already occur in BIM-based
concept is outside of the scope of this paper. design development as placement helpers for positioning
elements in a 3D environment using a 2D perspective.
2.1.1 “Planar Concept”
Figure 4 illustrates how all the building elements in an
Another concept developed earlier that needs a brief intro- example model can be assigned to a unique reference plane
duction here is the “Planar Concept” (Delavar 2017, Chapter 5). using this approach.
Many design elements have non-physical/analytical analogs Using the element classifications and reference planes,
(usually simplified) that are used in engineering analyses algorithms can calculate the location of each analytical
that should be grouped or categorized with their physical element (Fig. 5) relative to its design element and merge any
design equivalents. Unfortunately, the positioning of the duplicated analytical elements to keep the analytical models
design elements and their non-physical analogs cannot be consistent for subsequent analysis. This ability to link PEB
defined easily using the same frames of reference. design and analytical models allows for an integrated
In general, the position of 3D design elements in design (architectural and structural) automated model development
environments is described by referencing predefined process. Figure 6 shows how the defined logical relationship
geometrical snap points. Analytical models typically represent (element classification) can be used to eliminate errors and
physical elements by line segments, planes or points (e.g. in discrepancies in the structural model.

Fig. 3 New BIM element classifications suggested in Planar Concept for automating the BIM processes. Illustration of an example
conceptual BIM model (Delavar 2017, Chapter 5)
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 5

Fig. 4 Illustration of the assigned elements to a unique reference plane (P1) in an example conceptual BIM design

Fig. 5 Software calculations for analytical model element placement. Illustration of integrated (architectural and structural) modeling
developed by Planar Concept: (P1) reference plane, (a) tertiary elements related to P1 plane (linear analytical elements), (b) tertiary
elements related to P1 plane (area analytical elements), (c) primary elements related to P1 plane (linear analytical elements), (d) secondary
elements related to P1 plane (linear analytical elements), (e) however analytical models are merged together on the “P1 reference plane”
but the actual 3D model stays in its actual place

engineering (McGraw-Hill Construction 2012). The engineer-

3 BIM and wind engineering ing software packages offered by major BIM software such as
Autodesk (Autodesk 2016b, c, d), is evidence of such efforts.
Wind engineering is a specialization that draws upon In contrast, wind engineering integration is lacking properly
meteorology, fluid dynamics, solid mechanics, geographic defined engineering collaboration processes, related technology
information systems and some specialist engineering dis- development and required integrated BIM-based software.
ciplines including architecture, aerodynamics, structural This missing integration is particularly important as the
dynamics, and environmental science. The tools used include responses, or target design parameters are dependent on
atmospheric models, atmospheric boundary layer wind the shape of the study building, openings, cladding layers,
tunnels, large open jet facilities and computational fluid etc. that are inherently captured in the design. The wind
dynamics based numerical models (Aly et al. 2011a, b). For loads and appropriate load factors that allow the design of
selected shapes of buildings and cases, building codes and ordinary buildings are often prescribed by the analytical
standards prescribe analytical or tabular methods (Irwin et methods given in building codes (Irwin et al. 2013; Structural
al. 2013; Structural Engineering Institute 2012). Engineering Institute 2012). For complex situations or
Over the past decade, some efforts have been made cases not prescribed in building codes and standards, wind
to integrate BIM, structural, mechanical and electrical tunnel-based investigations or complex fluid-structure
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testing is an industry-wide accepted procedure. Alternatively,

the application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD),
particularly in wind assessment and building science is fairly
new but is quickly becoming mature (Bitsuamlak and Simiu
2010) and has wider design implications. For example, the
use of computational approaches now makes it feasible to
seek optimal designs for the building shapes resisting the
wind load (Elshaer et al. 2016) and generate more accurate
building thermal performance assessments (Khasay et al.
2017). Integrating this with broadly used BIM-based design
environments will allow for the further practical application
of optimization. However, in the case of wind engineering,
one main obstacle is the lack of software integration between
design and appropriate CFD simulation tools. This lack
exists in both the industry toolset and present academic

3.1 Integration of BIM and wind engineering

Fig. 6 Errors and discrepancies in the analytical model due to The wind engineering process, either using experimental or
standard BIM entity placement using frames of reference (primary high-performance computing, can be focused on either on
and secondary structural elements): (a) analytical model elements
the energy efficiency of buildings or on the resilience of the
such as beams, columns and nodes are placed at the hypothetical
center of elements mass/volumes, (b) inconsistencies between design to resist hurricane or other extreme wind events.
secondary and primary elements in the structural relationship Developing the necessary processes and interoperability
basis for integration of BIM with wind engineering and
interaction simulations can be conducted. A project-by- simulation will benefit both application areas. Figure 7
project wind load evaluation using boundary layer wind tunnel illustrates the proposed process map and data exchange

Fig. 7 Detail process-map/workflow defining the 3D models/data exchange strategies and the application of the “central database” in
BIM and wind engineering integration (for both wind tunnel and CFD based approaches)
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 7

strategy for BIM integration with wind engineering. The central Microsoft Access database. User input panels were
illustrated process is discussed separately based on the designed for specification of wind model and data transfer
simulation approaches (i.e. experimental or computational) in the tool. To provide modeling capabilities, the tool uses
in the following sections. the Autodesk Revit (BIM design authoring tool) Software
Development Kit (SDK) API and its built-in functions for
3.1.1 BIM design integration with wind tunnel aerodynamic
manipulating the models and creating automated processes.
data analysis
This tool can operate either as a stand-alone software that
Both wind simulation approaches, wind tunnel, and CFD can access data without having a BIM tool or be accessed as
deal with the significant amount of input and output data part of the BIM design authoring environment.
transfer, but wind tunnel approaches require more human WEDA tool functionality was assessed using an example
intervention as it is based on applying a physical testing wind tunnel test on a solar panel conducted by Aly and
procedure. Wind pressure measurement points (taps) and Bitsuamlak (2013). As mentioned above, the key point in
associated aerodynamic data can be linked to the design successful data exchange process is keeping the same
model through a shared database as illustrated in Fig. 7. referencing point (probes—pressure tabs location) between
Ideally, this transferred data could be made directly available the BIM design authoring tool and output results; Fig. 8
in the BIM design authoring tool. However, monitoring and illustrates the definition of these points using the software
management of the data could be a significant challenge interface. The main stand-alone software interface is shown
given a large amount of data to be transferred. For example, in Fig. 9.
for the simplest single solar panel test, the size of the pressure After evaluating the obtained data from wind tunnel
time history data for only 40 probes over a 30 second simulation and processing, the raw and processed data are
period in 0.0025-second fraction could be as big as 12000 × saved in the main central database. WEDA can import and
40. Statistical parameters such as mean, max, min, standard load the data from the central database and present them
deviation, peak, spectra, etc. on the raw data will also need superimposed on the design model for visualization proposes.
to be displayed visually to the designer. To provide the Wind pressure and loading information obtained by wind
engineer with access to this data during design, a stand-alone tunnel testing also can be transferred to BIM structural
software supporting BIM design authoring was coded and integrated model using defined data monitoring points
developed. (probes). The process for data-exchange is illustrated in Fig. 10.
The Wind Engineering Data Analysis tool (WEDA) allows It is worth mentioning that currently the 3D geometry
visualization and analysis on the main shared “Central of the design is used for 3D printing of prototype scaled
Database” of the transferred CFD data to support the BIM models for wind tunnel testing. Therefore the activity of
design activities. This stand-alone software was developed creating the wind tunnel model is also included in the
using Microsoft Visual Studio and was connected to a shared integration process map presented in Fig. 7.

Fig. 8 The evaluation of standalone BIM portal software using the wind tunnel results from a test on solar panels (Aly and Bitsuamlak
2013). WEDA software interfaces for defining the data reporting point for BIM software and wind tunnel results
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Fig. 9 WEDA interface for data exchange visualization and analysis. Examples show pressure coefficient of upper side (Cp) for solar panel
with 40 degree angle at t=0

3.1.2 BIM integration with computational wind engineering the same “Solar Panel” scenario tested by Aly and Bitsuamlak
(2013), was simulated using CWE processes. The goal was to
The improved ease and capabilities of computational wind demonstrate the process that was developed could handle
engineering (CWE) based on computational fluid dynamics both wind tunnel and CFD simulation approaches. The same
(CFD) is making a numerical evaluation of wind effects on process for defining probes in the CFD simulation software
the built environment a potentially attractive proposition. (CD-ADAPCO StarCCM+ Version 11.0 (Siemens 2016)) was
This is particularly true considering the positive trends in used to establish matching probe locations (and accordingly
hardware and software technology, as well as in numerical to obtain results out of the simulation analysis) in the design
modeling (Dagnew and Bitsuamlak 2013). Significant progress through the central database.
has been made in the application of CWE to the evaluation Also, to test how a proposed enhancement for automated
of wind loads on buildings. scenario modeling could perform, a separate interface in the
Working groups have been established to investigate the stand-alone software was developed. This interface allows
practical applicability of CWE and develop recommendations the user to input a limited set of basic design parameters for
for its use for in wind resistant design of buildings and for a parametric family of elements from which the 3D design
assessing pedestrian level wind, within the framework of models are automatically generated in smart design authoring
both the Architectural Institute of Japan (AIJ) and European tools like Autodesk Revit. The interface is shown in Fig. 11.
Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) (Bitsuamlak Once the BIM design model is created, it is shared with
and Simiu 2010). the CFD simulation software using common “STL” model
The main task in integrating CFD and BIM is facilitating generation functionality found in many design tools including
the transfer of various aerodynamic states (i.e. 3D building Autodesk Revit.
models with or without material properties). Depending on As shown in Fig. 12, during the conversion process, the
the target numerical simulation, communication between API finds all the 3D geometrical design components (solids)
BIM, as a 3D model representation, and CWE, as a fluid/ included in the model and polygonises them to create the STL
structure or heat transfer simulation, may entail only models. An STL (“StereoLithography”) file is a triangular
exchanging 3D models with or without material properties. facetted or tessellated representation of a 3D surface geometry
The work here shows it is possible to automate this transfer bounding a volume of space, the solid. Each facet is described
making one of the most time-consuming aspect of any by a perpendicular direction and three points representing
numerical simulation more efficient. As an example case, the vertices (corners) of the triangle (3D System 1988).
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 9

Fig. 10 The process of loading/importing evaluated and processed wind data from central database to BIM design authoring software
using the developed API. Example shows pressure coefficient of upper side (Cp) for solar panel with 40 degree angle at t=0 (t is the
time-history steps which the wind tunnel results were recorded upon)

The STL files can be imported and loaded into CFD transfer approach using the Central Database, the solar
simulation software where they are further segmented to panel case study was modeled in different model-prototype
defining “Boundary Conditions” and wind resisting faces scale (in this case to be compared with the wind tunnel results)
(CD-adapco 2011). All the pressure monitoring points (probes) and automatically processed through CWE software. The
are defined automatically using the database for CFD examination of the solar panel case was successful regarding
simulation software (using a Java macro) and the results of the evolution and evaluation of the developed workflow and
the simulation are reported in a spreadsheet “.csv” format model exchange strategies, but the BIM process itself was
which is converted to MS Access “.accdb” tables to be used lacking proper automation for generalized building model
for further analysis in stand-alone software or for exchange development uses.
with BIM API for further applications. Figure 7 provides a Although the process of creating 3D (STL) models from
process map showing the different workflows and processes. BIM models and subsequent data-exchange were automated,
Figure 13 illustrates the different software platforms involved the automation process could be undermined when parametric
and the interfaces that were used to deliver an integrated BIM 3D models are not available. In real case scenarios (such as
design and CWE simulation of the solar panel case study. PEB buildings as the main case study industry of this research)
Using a parametric 3D BIM model and facilitated data creating a parametric model of the entire building is not
10 Delavar et al. / Building Simulation

Fig. 11 Developed software interface for creating automation in 3D model development for CWE simulation using BIM environment
on the solar panel case study

Fig. 12 CAD/BIM 3D model to 3D STL conversion process

feasible. Also, having any parametric 3D model beside the in order to create a fully automated and integrated BIM and
actual design of a building would be redundant and time- CWE system.
consuming in development. Since the core of the design To solve problems (a), (b) and (c), the Planar Concept
process is the BIM model (and it is constantly exposed to for 3D wind model creation is utilized. In Fig. 5 the logic of
changes), any automated design or analysis activities requiring keeping consistency in the structural/analytical model by
alternate model representations requires that model to be locating all the analytical representatives in planar location
generated from the main/actual model of the project. For (reference plane) was explained. Therefore, the location
CWE applications where the structural resilience of a building of representative analytical models of design components
is to be assessed, the authors used the Planar Concept (which are classified in three categories) in 3D space can
introduced earlier (Delavar 2017 - Chapter 5) to help generate be independent of the actual location of those 3D design
the necessary analytical model. components. Hence, challenges (a) and (b) would be solved
if the wind 3D geometry could somehow be modeled exactly
3.1.3 From Planar Concept to CWE 3D model
using the normal of the referenced planes. Therefore, any
Table 1 lists three main challenges that need to be addressed defined probe location could be on the same plane with the
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 11

Fig. 13 The automated cycle of model 3D model creation for CFD simulator software using BIM design authoring tool and through the
stand-alone BIM portal software

Table 1 Issues in developing an integrated BIM and CWE system

Challenge Description
To find an approach for creating a 3D CFD compliant model of the building and the wind computational domain automatically
from a BIM model.
To define an intelligent process that locates the probes on the 3D geometry surfaces/facades while keeping them (tangentially)
orientated to the surface.
To define a data representation and process that allows this information to be transferred between the BIM application and the
CFD application. In particular, to be able to transfer any determined wind loads back to the design for structural analysis.

structural/analytical representative elements, and load transfer illustrated in Fig. 14, the created 3D model of the building
matters could be automatically done. Alternatively, challenge has a very regular and smooth surface, and the actual building
(a) could be easily solved using an algorithm to create 3D facade profile is not projected on it. As surface details are one
surfaces (polygons/meshing segments) from the coordinates of the most important parameters affecting wind performance,
of the corners of a shape that is created by mirroring 2D the missing 3D facade features of the building are required
footprints of all of the 3D components belonging to the for a more accurate definition of the wind boundary condition
reference plane. This shape is created by mirroring the corners for the CFD simulation (Bitsuamlak and Simiu 2010). This
of the model element components belonging to the reference lack can be addressed through a simple modification Planar
plane, as the reference planes themselves have no border. Concept application by building two different data sets for
probe location, a BIM set, and a CFD set.
3.1.4 Higher LOD model for wind simulations
Similar to the approach for the solar panel CWE case,
Two significant issues may arise when using the Planar a 3D STL model for CFD analysis is created for all the
Concept approach. First, the developed 3D model for CFD exterior building 3D components including 3D facade
simulation might have some discrepancies with the actual geometry features, addressing challenge (a). To address
design model regarding the size and volume due to sim- challenges (b) and (c), CFD probe positions are placed on
plifications made while creating the 3D models. Second, as the exterior/outer face of the CFD geometry model and a
12 Delavar et al. / Building Simulation

2D matrix conversion is used to establish a mapping of probe geometry model is more faithful to the actual profile of the
locations back to reference planes for each design element. project while results from CFD analysis can be linked other
A similar mapping exists from the reference plane to the engineering analysis through the BIM model. The relationship
analogous BIM set of probe locations linking the representative between these two linked but different BIM and CFD probe
CFD and analytical structural models. Thus the CFD data sets is illustrated in Fig. 15.

Fig. 14 Illustration of the Planar Concept being used to provide a geometrical reference concept for the automated creation of the 3D wind
model from the main design model while keeping it linked with the structural/analytical model (in a conceptual BIM design model)

Fig. 15 Illustration of the modification and 2D conversion required to resolve the integration problem
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 13

4 Evaluation through PEB example project characteristics, boundary conditions, and geometry/meshing
criteria standard procedures suggested by Dagnew et al. (2009)
4.1 Example PEB project and BIM API software and Bitsuamlak (2016) were followed. Some of the CFD
simulation assumptions and characteristics used for this
A BIM-based software application was developed, using the example PEB project are presented in Table 2.
Revit® software API, to evaluate the proposed framework,
automated BIM design development processes and the
5.2 Validating automated CWE 3D model creation—
functionality of the Planar and Floating LOD concepts
Challenge (a)
(Delavar 2017 - Chapter 4). Emphasis was given to the
application of the Planar Concept for creating a fully automated The first step was to validate the effectiveness of the
BIM design system integrating CWE. Once developed the developed approach for creating a CFD geometry and
application was used to model an example PEB project as part computational domain model from the BIM design. The
of the evaluation of the concepts and framework described realized implementation of the developed process and API
herein. The example project was a real industrial PEB building
interface through integration process for this step is shown
that had been previously designed using traditional PEB
in Fig. 17. The STL mesh was created using the surfacing
design systems and processes. The initial design of this 21 m ×
approach described earlier from the BIM design model and
16 m × 11.53 m (Eave Height) Gas Compression Station
pre-defined CFD computational domain (CD) information
was done in the absence of any BIM design model for PEB
was taken from information entered earlier by the user and
structures, the building enclosure, or collaborative design
stored in a data table in a central database in the BIM
environment (see Fig. 16). The entire process of model
authoring tool. Testing confirmed the software’s ability to
development for the example project was done using the
proposed automated process as described earlier in references automatically identify and discretize design geometry into
(Delavar 2017, Chapters 3, 4 and 5). a form usable by CFD simulator software.

5 Wind CFD simulation and integration with BIM 5.3 Validating automated probe locating and data
exchange—Challenges (b) and (c)
5.1 k-ε turbulent CFD simulation (CWE)
For the example design case the global positions of 1206
Although a complete discussion on CFD simulation computationally defined probes (tangentially oriented to
approaches are out of the scope of this paper, some of the the surface) for CFD analysis were automatically generated
assumptions and defined criteria for this simulation are and saved in the central BIM authoring software database
included here. In order to develop the CFD simulation, flow along with mappings to design element reference planes.

Fig. 16 Evaluation Process and example project for automation process verification (Delavar 2017, Chapter 3)
14 Delavar et al. / Building Simulation

Table 2 The example PEB project CFD simulation characteristic

Turbulent simulation assumptions and characteristics
 Reference mass density of the air, ρ = 1.29 kg/m3
 Reference static pressure of the air, P = 101.3 kPa
 Laminar (molecular) kinematic viscosity of air,  = 1.5×10−5 m2/s
 Initial velocity in the computational domain = 0 m/s
 Inflow velocity (a) uniform velocity profile, U = 10 m/s, and (b) atmospheric boundary layer
 (ABL) flow with mean velocity in m/s, U(z) = 1.9ln(20z+1)
 Turbulence intensity, I(z) = 1/ln(20z+1)
 Turbulence length scale in m, L(z) = 12.5z0.6 where z is the height above the ground surface in m
 Building surface as smooth wall and the ground surface (with roughness length, Z0= 0.05 m) as a rough wall with roughness parameters: Von Karman
constant, κ = 0.4 and roughness height, r = 1.75 m

Fig. 17 Automated 3D model development for CFD simulation from a BIM design model

Important design factors playing a role as parameters in this against previous manually generated results (Fig. 19) along
algorithm are the location of secondary structural elements, with data result spot checks. (As the automatically generated
facade features of the buildings and any computed CFD and manually CFD models were effectively very similar the
tributary areas. These factors and consequent relationships computational results could be reasonably expected to be
can be seen in the interface snapshots captured in Fig. 18. consistent.) To support further design work pressure point
Transformed coordinates are introduced automatically to results (2D planar contour maps) were projected on the
the CFD simulator using JavaScript code (StarCCM+ API main building successfully using Autodesk Revit’s Analysis
or Macro functions). Using the process described in Fig. 7, Visualization Function (AVF).
after analysis, the result of CFD simulation are returned in In the end, visual confirmation confirmed the developed
“.CSV” format which is then imported into the central design algorithm was able to apply the wind load to the same
database as “Values” per coordinates. Figure 19 illustrates plane as the structural and analytical models delivering the
the described data exchange processes from CFD simulator desired integration between BIM-based design and CWE
back to the BIM design authoring tool for visualization and analysis for the example project. For the example project,
further structural analysis and design. A visual comparison the overall process workflow, structural/analytical model and
using an identical color mapped presentation ranges (color automatically calculated and applied loading on the building
bar ranges were unified) was then used validate the results structure are shown in Fig. 20.
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 15

Fig. 18 Shared central database for probe coordination—bottom left: probe locations automatically generated in CFD software utilizing
central database and API; top left: output result of CFD simulation ready to be reported back to central database at probe coordinates;
top right: BIM API interface demonstrating the automatically generated probes locations based on the analytical model on each selected
surface/2D plane; bottom right: automatically generated probes on the facade of the project BIM model by BIM API in a 3D view

Fig. 19 The process of wind simulation data exchange between CFD simulation software and BIM design authoring tool using referenced
16 Delavar et al. / Building Simulation

Fig. 20 Automated wind load calculation using referenced probes and Planar Concept

6 Future applications and recommendations 7 Conclusion

Fully automated model creation and data exchange between A comprehensive discussion on the application automated
BIM-based design and CFD achieved here provides two new design development supported by BIM for integrating
capabilities to wind engineering researchers. The first is engineering analysis into design processes is presented in
dynamic boundary allocation and the second is integrated this paper. In particular, a framework and algorithms was
multi-scale and multi-physics simulation. An example of the described, implemented and tested for incorporating wind
first capability is the ability to handle vertical and horizontal engineering (both wind-tunnel and CFD based approaches)
building openings (such as open windows, air intakes, and in the structural design of a PEB project with the side benefit
elevator shaft openings) modelling them as air domain (i.e. of achieving a BIM model suitable for collaboration with
non-solid) in the 3D CFD model. Therefore, the automation other construction disciplines. A detailed process map was
can create different 3D CFD models for different airflow developed defining data exchange strategies and the application
scenarios for the building when studying the features of the of a “central database” to integrate the design engineering
air movement inside the building. In the second case, multiple activities.
facade profiles can be easily configured for CFD study based To enable effective integration between the BIM and CFD
on parametric design variants. This supports examining models two key modeling attributes need to be defined and
different facade failure scenarios and climate performance maintained. Firstly, a unified coordinate referencing system
(the wind, thermal, moisture, etc.) of the building accordingly. needs to be created in the database for capturing probe
Failure studies include the possibility of setting elements of positions and reporting probe values. The coordinate system
the 3D facade model to be treated as part of the air domain developed for this purpose was also designed to accommodate
in the exported STL model for CFD simulation to mimic the natural differences between BIM and output CFD models
component failure. through the use of the Planar Concept. Secondly, a strategy
Delavar et al. / Building Simulation 17

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