Autodesk's computational fluid dynamics software has become an invaluable tool in predicting product performance, which helps optimize design and validate product behavior before beginning the manufacturing process. 

Here, Heath Houghton, simulation product manager at Autodesk, walks us through how HVAC contractors are using the software to get the heating and cooling comforts of a building right the first time.

What types of HVAC projects can contractors get the most use out of the CFD software? And is it too powerful for a residential HVAC projects?  

Architectural firms use CFD to aid the design or understanding of situations where well-known standards might not apply. Internal occupant thermal comfort, external pedestrian comfort, contaminant air and clean air ventilation strategies are the most common uses for CFD. While standards deliver good rules of thumb, there are special conditions as well as spatial exceptions where CFD could deliver a dramatically different solution. CFD can provide good value and prevent significant cost of retrofitting by helping design it right the first time. CFD isn’t necessarily too powerful for residential HVAC projects, but most contractors would probably find ASHRAE and other residential HVAC standards can cover most residential HVAC situations.

The CFD software is for fluid dynamics, explain how air distribution factors into the equation.

People would be correct that CFD is for fluid dynamics and air and other gases are technically a fluid. So, the computation of how air flows is one of the primary uses of CFD software. HVAC air distribution is a natural fit.

How exactly does using the CFD software help contractors save money? 

In the building industry, there is no prototype to work from. The first construction is the final product. After that, everything is expensive retrofit projects. Using CFD as a tool to help get it right the first time helps mitigate the risk of costly retrofit projects. CFD also allows for optimizing for different objectives.This allows a firm to design a truly customized building for the needs and preferences of its occupants.

Any tips or best practices for using the CFD’s digital prototype capabilities?

There are many tips I could give, but the most important is an old engineering philosophy called KISS. Keep it simple…The best way to use the software is as an engineering tool just like any other. Keep the models to the simplest level that will mimic the physical environment you are trying to understand. Simplifying a model improves the time to results, robustness of the solve and potentially the accuracy of what’s important. To this end, this is why Autodesk has included purpose built simplification technology as part of our software solution.