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What is Computational Fluid Dynamics? CFD in a nutshell

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

I recently sat down with OMRT’s in-house CFD expert Mauro De Luca over a coffee to get to the bottom of something. What is CFD? How is relevant to a construction project? How do we get to a point where we can see this kind of wind analysis:

As I am a business developer, and Mauro is a computational physicist, you might imagine there isn't much overlap between these two worlds. But we both do our best to understand both the complexities and practicalities of each others' perspectives. Read on below!

Hi Mauro, could you introduce yourself please?

Sure. I work as a computational physicist at OMRT. I have a background in computational physics and I develop the wind analysis tools for projects at OMRT.

So what exactly is CFD? What does it stand for?

CFD stands for Computational Fluid Dynamics (or Flow Dynamics, depending on who you ask). In the context of a building design, it’s all about calculating the wind impact of a building’s and its footprint on the environment.

So you get to work a lot with CFD and wind analysis. Why is that? Why is there such a demand for this kind of analysis?

Every construction project in the Netherlands (and beyond) requires an analysis of the effect the building is going to have on the air and windflow around it. If the building creates too much wind (as we have seen in many modern buildings), that’s going to be a problem.

And it’s an important safety issue too. Storms and wind can be a serious threat to life. Earlier this year we also had a very destructive storm (Eunice) in the Netherlands, with trees falling and creating a huge danger. So conducting a full wind-flow analysis is a critical part of building design.

3D CFD output, notice the wind spiralling on the right

What is different about OMRT’s approach, compared to a standard building design process?

At OMRT, we’re all about giving you information up front. In a typical project, wind analysis is important. But typically, you won’t be able to receive full computational simulations while the building is still in the early design phase. That isn’t something within the scope of an architect.

At OMRT, we basically run these simulations in tandem with the design process. So any design that passes the initial checks has also gone through a wind analysis on our end

A big benefit of this is that there are no surprises. If you’re starting with the end in mind your project is always set up for success, so that’s basically how we differ from the norm

A typical study surface, or input, for our OMRT Wind Analysis project

Cool. I’m also curious. Why are these CFD’s or wind simulations so difficult? Why doesn’t everyone just quickly run these simulations on every building design plan?

Wind analysis is incredibly computationally intense. Before powerful computers came along, we literally couldn’t figure this stuff out. You can’t sit down with a pen and paper and figure out fluid dynamics. There’s too many moving parts, so you’d never be able to solve it.

We use AWS cloud computing, which for us, is the most cost effective way to run these simulations. Basically we can leverage the power of these supercomputers to run simulations in parallel. Outsourcing the computations to Amazon means we can get the results quicker, and cheaper than using our own computers in the OMRT office.

The average wind mapping for a neighbourhood. You can get a sense of the scale and complexity of the calculations from these images

Nice. I think we’ve learned a bit about how CFD and wind analytics works, and its importance within a building project. What can people do if they want to learn more?

Calling us at OMRT is always good start! We do things a bit differently by getting you all that key information upfront. So you can minimize uncertainty and hopefully have things run without a hitch.



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