LES over RANS in building simulation for outdoor and indoor applications: A foregone conclusion?

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Large Eddy Simulation (LES) undeniably has the potential to provide more accurate and more reliable results than simulations based on the Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) approach. However, LES entails a higher simulation complexity and a much higher computational cost. In spite of some claims made in the past decades that LES would render RANS obsolete, RANS remains widely used in both research and engineering practice. This paper attempts to answer the questions why this is the case and whether this is justified, from the viewpoint of building simulation, both for outdoor and indoor applications. First, the governing equations and a brief overview of the history of LES and RANS are presented. Next, relevant highlights from some previous position papers on LES versus RANS are provided. Given their importance, the availability or unavailability of best practice guidelines is outlined. Subsequently, why RANS is still frequently used and whether this is justified or not is illustrated by examples for five application areas in building simulation: pedestrian-level wind comfort, near-field pollutant dispersion, urban thermal environment, natural ventilation of buildings and indoor airflow. It is shown that the answers vary depending on the application area but also depending on other—less obvious—parameters such as the building configuration under study. Finally, a discussion and conclusions including perspectives on the future of LES and RANS in building simulation are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-870
Number of pages50
JournalBuilding Simulation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2018


  • building physics
  • computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • fluid mechanics
  • position paper
  • urban physics

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