Research project

Developing better outputs from building thermal simulation tools to improve decision making in the design of low energy buildings (EPSRC)


Developing better outputs from building thermal simulation tools to improve decision making in the design of low energy buildings (EPSRC)

The research focused on the gap that exists between the output information from building performance simulation (BPS) tools and what is actually needed for building designers to undertake informed design decisions when designing energy-efficient low carbon buildings. A key aspect of this project was to acknowledge that building designers interpret and manipulate building thermal physics information differently from building physics experts. The work, therefore, focused on producing building thermal physics output information that is consonant with how designers think. Building designers were considered the main BPS tools users and were asked to participate in the research by suggesting which building physics outputs might be useful into building design decision making. A series of interdisciplinary methods, never before attempted in this field, were used to produce meaningful BPS output information to design decision making: Interaction Design and Qualitative research methods from the Social Sciences (Thematic Analysis and Grounded Theory) together with Building Design theory and principles from dynamic thermal modelling and Information Visualization.

Key findings were:

1) The description of a process used to develop a framework to produce thermal simulation post-processed information and data representation systems meaningful to design decision making (Bleil de Souza and Tucker 2013). The study was then revised and expanded to become a journal paper, by including interviews with practitioners and results from an on-line survey (Bleil de Souza and Tucker 2014)

2) An embryo description of a structure, patterns of decision making, that enables simulation software developers and building designers to produce thermal simulation results meaningful to design decision making (Tucker and Bleil de Souza 2013). The study was also revised and expanded to become a journal paper, by including interviews with practitioners (currently under review in Journal of Building Performance Simulation).

3) An embryo conceptual data model composed of a number of interrelated open ended tables linked to an appropriate set of coding to construct displays to produce, store and retrieve meaningful dynamic thermal simulation output information for design decision making: A starting point to structure a repository of information for software developers to improve BPS output interfaces (Currently under review in Journal of Building Performance Simulation).

4) A user-centred approach ‘manifesto’ to the BPS community explaining why building designers should be considered the main BPS tool users, either directly or indirectly via consultants, paper submitted to the International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA) Board to be part of the IBPSA white paper.

Publications so far include:

  • Bleil de Souza, C. and Tucker, S. A User-centred approach to building performance simulation: User needs and performance assessment management. International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA) Newsletter. V.26 (1), April 2016.
  • Bleil De Souza, C. and Tucker, S. 2015. Thermal simulation software outputs: a conceptual data model of information presentation for building design decision making. Journal of Building Performance Simulation 9(3), pp. 227-254. (10.1080/19401493.2015.1030450) – Awarded Best paper from Journal of Building Performance Simulation in the years 2014-2015
  • Tucker, S. and Bleil De Souza, C. 2016. Thermal simulation outputs: exploring the concept of patterns in design decision-making. Journal of Building Performance Simulation 9(1), pp. 30-49. (10.1080/19401493.2014.991755)
  • Bleil De Souza, C. and Tucker, S. 2014. Thermal simulation software outputs: a framework to produce meaningful information for design decision-making. Journal of Building Performance Simulation 8(2), pp. 57-78 (10.1080/19401493.2013.872191)
  • Bleil de Souza, C. and Tucker, S. “Thermal simulation software outputs: What building designers propose?” Proceedings Building Simulation ’13, Thirteenth International IBPSA Conference, Chambery, France, August 2013
  • Tucker, S. and Bleil de Souza, C. “Thermal simulation software outputs: Patterns for decision making” Proceedings Building Simulation ’13, Thirteenth International IBPSA Conference, Chambery, France, August 2013

More Architectural Science Group projects