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Perkins&Will Simulate Microclimates With SimScale to Inform Critical Design Decisions.

Perkins & Will started in 1935 as an architectural design firm and now has 2,500 employees worldwide and is in the top 3 largest architecture firms globally. Its London office is multi-disciplinary, covering diverse sectors including higher education, healthcare, commercial, corporate interiors, masterplanning, and more. Perkins & Will is part of a wider family within the Dar Al-Handasah group.

The Challenge

Microclimate Simulation

Perkins & Will are invited to participate in many global competitions and design bids. The nature of competitions means that design teams need to quickly produce innovative, sustainable, and unique designs bespoke to each clients’ requirements and physical environment.

The urban design and masterplanning team based in the London office is a team of urban designers who augment global design teams with specialist urban design, environmental, and sustainable design expertise. They work on larger city, district scale, and strategic planning projects all over the world with municipalities, private developers, and national governments. Recent projects have included urban design and masterplanning of new towns and cities in Saudi Arabia for example, working on innovative new residential and commercial districts.

perkins and will cfd simulation results
CFD results of wind velocities at early design stages.

One of many recent design challenges the urban design and masterplanning team worked on included a new district-scale educational and research masterplan in the Middle East. This was a new project in a challenging desert environment near the coast. It had several climate and environmental aspects that needed fast and accurate simulations of the microclimate to inform critical design decisions. Accounting for rapidly changing wind conditions and outdoor safety was critical in the design of the overall scheme.


How They Solved It With SimScale

Simulation: Accurate, Transient, and Accessed via the Cloud

SimScale was specifically chosen for this challenging project for the following reasons:

  • Perkins & Will needed fast design simulations that were accurate, transient (as opposed to the simpler steady-state CFD simulations common in the industry), and accessed via the cloud.
  • Due to the nature of the competition, Perkins & Will had little time for traditional on-premise software with lengthy installation, hardware, and training requirements. SimScale is accessed via a simple login on a web browser and its flexible subscription options were ideal to get started quickly.
  • The SimScale solver for wind simulations comes fully loaded with global climate and weather databases and can simulate multiple wind directions in parallel.
  • The microclimate simulation tools in SimScale were able to rapidly and robustly import complex Rhino/Revit models with terrain, without needing CAD clean-up —offering significant time-saving compared to traditional simulation tools.

Live technical support through the collaboration tools built into SimScale —essential for meeting critical deadlines and getting the team up and running quickly.

The Results & Next Steps

From Simulations Results to Design Insights

The design team reported successful simulations in the first attempt and were able to quickly run design iterations using the intuitive and easy-to-use simulation interface. Several CAD designs were run for 16 wind directions each. SimScale is a parallel simulation tool meaning that all 16 wind directions were run simultaneously, saving time and cost when compared to legacy software that would have run each wind direction sequentially.

perkins and will simulation streamlines around building design
CFD results of wind streamlines showing high wind speeds (red) flowing around and over the proposed buildings. 

Perkins & Will extracted useful insight from the simulations including:

  • Evaluating regions of high and unsafe wind speeds using the wind comfort statistics and images automatically produced by SimScale
  • Using streamlines to visually identify unwanted aerodynamic effects such as wind channeling (wind tunnel effect that causes wind acceleration), downdraught, and excessive turbulence
  • Comparative analyses of competing urban layouts and building designs
  • Opportunities to add wind mitigation features such as trees, windscreens, and canopies.

Feedback from the team was extremely positive. Without SimScale they would have had to rely on approximate calculations without the quantifying data and visualization useful to conclude real design decisions and communicate with their clients. Alternatively, they would have sought specialist CFD consultants which would have added time and cost. A significant benefit of the SimScale platform was its cloud collaboration features that allowed the remote working Perkins & Will design teams to collaborate effectively.

SimScale has a clean and easy to understand interface that makes complex simulations accessible to architects and designers.

Peter Baird

Head of Urban Design, London

Perkins & Will have signed up to a net-zero pledge on architecture and interiors meaning their projects and designs will be at the forefront of sustainability. Looking forward, they can benefit from additional features in the SimScale platform including the powerful API for faster and improved integration to their existing design workflows, outdoor comfort simulations that calculate the Universal Thermal Comfort Index (UTCI), and the wide-ranging simulation capabilities for working on large city-scale microclimate simulations.

Set up your own cloud-native simulation via the web in minutes by creating an account on the SimScale platform. No installation, special hardware or credit card is required.

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