Engineering 3D models is a key part of any architectural engineering firm, but there are many uses for 3D technologies that a firm may do if their customers demand it. Simulations in a 3D environment are essential to many building projects and more.
The following are different types of simulations built from a 3D modeling system.
Irregular Product Flows
From water and other liquids to gas systems, irregular product moving through a building often plays an impact on the structure and design of a building. Irregular flows involve bends in pipes, unique needs to fill certain volumes or certain altitudes. When fluid moves around a bend it changes the rate of flow in the pipes. When fluid has to be pressurized to reach the top of a building that produces more issues. Liquid waste removal, water distribution systems, and fire suppression systems all require simulation to avoid costly mistakes and delays due to reworking poor distribution systems.
Liquid Waste Removal
Manufacturing, farm, and residential facilities all require large amounts of liquid waste removal. From chemical wash to manure and sewage, waste treatment is a specific issue that businesses face in creating many commercial or residential buildings. Simulations ensure that the waste actually flows the way it is designed to, that desired levels of dilution or concentration are reached before releasing the fluid to the next stage, and more.
Good simulations are useful for planning, building, and demonstrating compliance with the EPA and state and local safety regulations. Additionally, if a building is going to use gray water in its grounds or other processes, this needs to be simulated as well.
Water Pressure and Drainage Simulation
Any building with a rise in elevation needs to simulate the distribution of water to different floors in the building. Buildings with large floor plans need to simulate drainage systems to ensure that water and effluent does not back up in the pipes. Pressure, volume flow, and rate of decline in gravity fed pipes are all important variables in building a building. Location of sewage services needs to be part of the simulated fluid movement.
Fire Suppression Design
Fire suppression systems can be of two types: liquid (usually water) or gas (carbon dioxide or nitrogen). These systems need to be thoroughly planned and tested to ensure that a building project is adequately protected in the event of a fire.
Both liquids and gases have specific properties for delivery; these properties may be simulated in a VR/3D environment. Whether looking at delivering irregular substances into the building or away from it, good simulations are a key part of modern architectural planning.
Structural Integrity Simulations
Another variable system that requires testing is protection against natural disaster. Earthquakes, wind storms, floods, and fire are all events which can reduce the value of a project to nothing. If the project is built to last the possible disasters, the builders and investors guarantee a higher value product. If not, then investors increase their risk in the project and builders lose value in their brand.
Simulating wind resistance requires specific variables. Air composition, building composition, and the frequency of the wind play significant parts in creating a wind resistance building simulation. Anyone who has seen the Tacoma Narrows bridge disaster knows the power of proper planning for wind movement. The bridges oscillations started during construction and continued until the structure could not handle the motion and collapsed. All remedial solutions the Washington Port Authority could think of were inadequate.
After Tacoma Narrows, engineers began to test their designs in wind tunnels before any construction was done. With modern computing systems, much of the need for wind tunnel testing can be created virtually and designs tested virtually at a fraction of the price of a wind tunnel. Many projects will still need wind tunnel tests to show physical proof of safety, but the poor designs can be eliminated via simulation at a fraction of the price and time before sending final designs to real world testing.
With seismographic testing and structural measurements from multiple earthquakes and tsunamis over the last 100 years, much of an earthquake can be recreated mathematically. This provides for unique situations to test design’s earthquake resistance via simulation before building mock-ups and actual projects.
For building projects in an earthquake zone or near a beach where a tsunami may hit, designs need to be ran through simulations of earthquake scenarios.
Finally, different building materials burn at different rates. Long, straights spaces in a building often act as a vortex for heat and flame in a fire. Closed off spaces reduce the oxygen and change burn rates for the materials within them. All these variables mean that predicting a building’s fire resistance is difficult at the best of times. But, a 3D environment can simulate a fire’s path through a building using known variables to make a virtual simulation of the building’s fire resistance.
Buildings designed to hold large amounts of people face unique situations regarding a very fluid dynamic. When large amounts of people are moving through a floorplan, they often behave as a liquid. Speed is increased in tighter spaces as people try to get out, but slows down as they spread across a larger environment.
But, if the space becomes too enclosed or there is something stopping people, then the dynamics change again, just like shutting a valve in a plumbing system changes the flow of water on both sides of the valve. These scenarios are important to simulate to predict what happens in the event of an emergency, what happens if fire exits are blocked, what happens if there are too many vendors in a certain space, and other scenarios. Simulations will empower a design and engineering team to look closely at the safety and convenience scenarios necessary to get the best use out of their building.
Other Real World Simulations
Even though we have been discussing mostly building and other structural project simulations, there are other real-world situations which require simulation as well. These include crash testing, simulated experiments, VR simulations for forensics teams, VR simulations for teaching scenarios, and even traffic simulations (irregular flow at a city-wide scale).
Simulations start with creating a virtual environment where the scenario will take place, then add the various data points that will be tracked in the simulation, and then predict their activity based on mathematical formulas derived from actual science data sets. The amount of math involved in this is incredible, but with modern computing power and 3D graphics, we have the ability to create the environment virtually and track enough data points to predict how various substances will behave in a real-world event.
For many processes, a virtual simulation does not negate the need for mockup and testing of models, but it does speed up the process of design, cut the cost of initial testing, and provide a useful tool for engineers to have when pitching completed plans to investors, government agencies or other interested parties.
BIM has many interesting uses and the potential for large scale virtual simulations is one of the more often overlooked uses. The Engineering Design team would love to help you decrease the time necessary for building a simulation, let us know if we can help your design through VR simulations.