Information exchange between architectural design models and Thermal Energy Simulation (TES) tools still suffers from interoperability problems. The main challenge is to robustly translate the geometrical information required for TES. The current practice involves a cumbersome and iterative manual correction of the model between the architect and the engineer, which is prone to human errors. Interpreting the geometry solely based on the IFC file is not a trivial process due to its complex nature, in which different attributes are cross-linked to each other. To address this issue, an approach based on the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is proposed, which aims to provide straightforward readability of geometrical information as well as a reliable and flexible thermal simulation. To demonstrate this approach, an IFC model of a residential building was transferred to a commercial FEA software and thermal analysis was conducted. Interoperability problems regarding robust transfer of geometrical information were not encountered and the process was deemed to be efficient. FEA also revealed another strength by providing thermal analysis of individual components of the structure. This can be employed in the early design stage by rapid prototyping of different components (e.g., geometry, thermal properties) and their role on the thermal performance of the whole structure. Results are presented by comparing the proposed approach with the current practice and the potential advantages are highlighted.
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