Flow around a complex building: Comparisons between experiments and a Reynolds-average Navier-Stokes approach

Ronald J. Calhoun, Frank Gouveia, Joseph Shinn, Stevens Chan, Dave Stevens, Roberts Lee, John Leone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


An experiment investigating flow around a single complex building was performed in 2000. Sonic anemometers were placed around the building, and two-dimensional wind velocities were recorded. An energy-budget and wind-measuring station was located upstream to provide stability and inflow conditions. In general, the sonic anemometers were located in a horizontal plane around the building at a height of 2.6 m above the ground. However, at the upwind wind station, two levels of the wind were measured. The resulting database can be sampled to produce mean wind fields associated with specific wind directions such as 210°, 225°, and 240°. The data are available generally and should be useful for testing computational fluid dynamical models for flow around a building. An in-house Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes approach was used to compare with the mean wind fields for the predominant wind directions. The numerical model assumed neutral flow and included effects from a complex array of trees in the vicinity of the building. Two kinds of comparisons are presented: 1) direct experimental versus modeled vector comparisons and 2) a numerical metric approach that focuses on wind magnitude and direction errors. The numerical evaluation generally corroborates the vector-to-vector inspection, showing reasonable agreement for the mean wind fields around the building. However, regions with special challenges for the model were identified. In particular, recirculation regions were especially difficult for the model to capture correctly. In the 240° case, there is a tendency for the model to exaggerate the turning effect in the wind caused by the effect of the building. Two different kinds of simulations were performed: 1) predictive calculations with a reasonable but not high-fidelity representation of the building's architectural complexity and 2) postexperiment calculations in which a large number of architectural features were well represented. Although qualitative evidence from inspection of the angles of the vectors in key areas such as around the southeast corner of the building indicated an improvement from the higher-fidelity representation of the building, the general numerical evaluation indicated little difference in the quality of the two solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-710
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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