Olsson Associates


Setting design trends

Friday, March 23, 2018

Cory Wilson, Professional Engineer

Facilities Software Support

Olsson Associates’ (Olsson) Facilities teams have invested in a cutting edge Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software to support complicated and highly technical Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) projects. This software is one example of our investment in technology to keep Olsson competitive in the industry. It allows us to validate our designs before they are constructed.

CFD has been used to help solve problems for projects throughout the firm. 

We first began using CFD for heat flow modeling in data centers because of their high-load densities. Data centers are critical spaces that need to stay operational 24/7, and as such, they often have backup power and redundant cooling systems. Whether on primary or backup power, the servers, housed in cabinets in the data center, continue to produce heat. Upon losing air conditioning to a data center, the room temperature will rise by as much as 10 degrees per minute. An example for this analysis is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Modeling of an indoor data center with 32 cabinets with hot/cold aisle containment.











Olsson completed a project in 2015 that had a design capacity of 30 kilowatts per cabinet. With the CFD software, we were able to model redundant cooling scenarios and changed our design twice for problematic areas in which the client customized the number of servers in the data center and the servers’ cabinet sizes. The software also allowed us to model the loss of one primary system and the recovery time required after initiating the second system. This allowed us to see the exact temperature rises and durations in the thermal model.

Recently, we expanded this design service to include the following types of analysis:

  • Modeling of wastewater environments for air-change and removal of chlorides (odor control systems)
  • Smoke modeling for designing code-required evacuation systems.
  • Outdoor airflow monitoring with heat and air pollution (such as air quality issues with stack effects)
  • Monitoring of airflow designs with captured heavy particulates (shooting ranges)

Figures 2-4 show samples of work from CFD software.

Figure 2. Firing range air tunnel velocity and magnitude diagram.


Figure 3. Modeling smoke in a mine environment.


Figure 4. Clarifier basin airflow modeling for chloride entrapment.



















The use of this program is validation of our design before it is installed in the real-world application, and, in some cases, it’s the official method used for permitting with Authority Having Jurisdictions during plan reviews. We have used this software with city plan reviewers on building atriums/auditoriums, with United States Air Force approval on indoor particulate capturing, and for third-party validation of forensic investigations.

Soon, we will expand the application of this software platform to fluid dynamics, fluid density, and hydraulic analysis. This will allow us to provide services we had to outsource to third-party specialized consultants.

In summary, our portfolio of projects and potential uses of highly technical engineering has branched into water/wastewater, environmental, surveying (LIDAR), and general civil because of this software. The addition of CFD software allows us to pursue dozens of applications we were not pursuing before. Some of the recent potential designs we are experimenting with include chemical analysis of exhaust stack heights, outdoor chiller farm heat short cycling, cooling tower drift analysis, and fire prevention systems. Another huge benefit to this software is that we can incorporate a REVIT file or Civil 3D file seamlessly into our program for our use without having to physically create the 3D environment, which saves us on the associated fees.  If you have any questions, call me at 816.442.6033 or email cwilson@olssonassociates.com.


Cory Wilson, PE

 Mechanical/Electrical Engineer

Cory is a Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Industry Expert. He specializes in mission critical, office, commercial, educational, retail, religious, medical, hospitality, and institutional settings. Cory performs project and client management and business development.



Connect with us