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This paper proposes an approach to the creation of design tools that address the real information needs of designers in the early stages of design of nonresidential buildings. Traditional simplified design tools are typically too limited to be of much use, even in conceptual design. The proposal is to provide access to the power of detailed simulation tools, at a stage in design when little is known about the final building, but at a stage also when the freedom to explore options is greatest.
The proposed approach to tool design has been derived from consultation with design analysis teams as part of the COMFEN tool development. The paper explores how tools like COMFEN have been shaped by this consultation and how requests from these teams for real-world relevance might shape such tools in the future, drawing into the simulation process the lessons from Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) of buildings.