Parametric modeling and surface-specific sensitivity analysis of PV module layout on building skin using BIM

Negar Salimzadeh, Faridaddin Vahdatikhaki, Amin Hammad*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Photovoltaic (PV) energy is a promising source of clean energy that can contribute to the development of sustainable cities and the mitigation of global warming. Conventionally, PV modules were only considered for installation on the rooftop of buildings. However, nowadays there are various types of PV modules that can be installed on different surfaces of buildings, such as curtain walls, windows, and balconies. Given that the productivity of the PV system depends heavily on the layout design (i.e., the size, type, location, and orientation of the modules), it is imperative to perform detailed simulation of radiation potential on different surfaces of the buildings to find the most efficient PV layout. Existing simulation methods, which mostly use only the geometric model of buildings, cannot discriminate between different types of building surfaces. As a result, these methods cannot be used to design PV layouts where different types of surface-restricted PV modules (e.g., PV modules that can be installed on windows) are incorporated. Therefore, this research builds on the advent of Building Information Modeling (BIM) to develop a parametric modeling platform for the design of surface-specific PV module layout on the entire skin of buildings using the surface properties of the BIM model. Using this platform, designers will be able to (1) perform radiation simulation on a combination of desired surfaces of buildings, (2) study the impact of various design characteristics (e.g., size and orientation), (3) develop complex scenarios for the layout of PV modules on the buildings, and (4) perform detailed cost-benefit analysis of each scenario. A prototype is developed using Dynamo visual programming platform to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed method. A case study is presented for a tall building in Montreal, Canada. Various scenarios are developed and systematically compared from energy and cost perspectives. The case study demonstrated the potentials of the developed platform for the development and in-depth analysis of complex scenarios for the layout of PV modules on building skin. This research contributes to the body of knowledge by demonstrating how BIM can be leveraged towards a more sustainable design of buildings through facilitating the design of complex PV layouts on building skin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109953
JournalEnergy and buildings
Early online date12 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • BIM
  • Building skin
  • Parametric modeling
  • PV layout
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Solar simulation
  • Sustainable design


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