Uncertainty analysis in building performance simulation for design support

C.J. Hopfe, J.L.M. Hensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building performance simulation (BPS) has the potential to provide relevant design information by indicating directions for design solutions. A major challenge in simulation tools is how to deal with difficulties through large variety of parameters and complexity of factors such as non-linearity, discreteness, and uncertainty.

The purpose of uncertainty and sensitivity analysis can be described as identifying uncertainties in input and output of a system or simulation tool [1], [2], [3].

In practice uncertainty and sensitivity analysis have many additional benefits including: (1) With the help of parameter screening it enables the simplification of a model [4]. (2) It allows the analysis of the robustness of a model [5]. (3) It makes aware of unexpected sensitivities that may lead to errors and/or wrong specifications (quality assurance) [6], [7], [8], [9], [10]. (4) By changing the input of the parameters and showing the effect on the outcome of a model, it provides a “what-if analysis” (decision support). [11].

In this paper a case study is performed based on an office building with respect to various building performance parameters. Uncertainty analysis (UA) is carried out and implications for the results considering energy consumption and thermal comfort are demonstrated and elaborated. The added value and usefulness of the integration of UA in BPS is shown.

► We examine the impact of different uncertainties in building performance. ► Taking physical uncertainty into account leads to greater quality assurance of the model. ► Design uncertainties could improve and enable design decision support. ► Scenario uncertainties are related to design decision support (future adaptability of buildings). ► The integration of all uncertainties provides evidence based decision support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2798-2805
JournalEnergy and Buildings
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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