Abstract There has been a rapid growth of scientific literature on the application of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in the research of ventilation and indoor air science. With a 1000–10,000 times increase in computer hardware capability in the past 20 years, CFD has become an integral part of scientific research and engineering development of complex air distribution and ventilation systems in buildings. This review discusses the major and specific challenges of CFD in terms of turbulence modelling, numerical approximation, and boundary conditions relevant to building ventilation. We emphasize the growing need for CFD verification and validation, suggest ongoing needs for analytical and experimental methods to support the numerical solutions, and discuss the growing capacity of CFD in opening up new research areas. We suggest that CFD has not become a replacement for experiment and theoretical analysis in ventilation research, rather it has become an increasingly important partner.
We believe that an effective scientific approach for ventilation studies is still to combine experiments, theory, and CFD. We argue that CFD verification and validation are becoming more crucial than ever as more complex ventilation problems are solved. It is anticipated that ventilation problems at the city scale will be tackled by CFD in the next 10 years.