Building Energy Software Tools
Formerly hosted by US Dept. of Energy    

CONTAM

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CONTAM is a multizone indoor air quality and ventilation analysis program designed to help you determine airflows, contaminant concentrations, and personal exposure in buildings. Airflows include infiltration, exfiltration, and room-to-room airflows and pressure differences in building systems, and can be driven by mechanical means, wind pressures acting on the exterior of the building, and buoyancy effects induced by temperature differences between zones, including the outdoors. Contaminant concentrations include the transport and fate of airborne contaminants, due to airflow, chemical and radio-chemical transformation, adsorption and desorption to building materials, filtration, and deposition to and resuspension from building surfaces. Personal exposure includes the exposure of building occupants to airborne contaminants, for eventual risk assessment.

CONTAM can be useful in a variety of applications. Its ability to calculate building airflow rates and relative pressures between zones of the building is useful for assessing the adequacy of ventilation rates in a building, for determining the variation in ventilation rates over time, for determining the distribution of ventilation air within a building, for estimating the impact of envelope air-tightening efforts on infiltration rates, and for evaluating the energy impacts of building airflows. The program has also been used extensively for the design and analysis of smoke management systems. The prediction of contaminant concentrations can be used to determine the indoor air quality performance of buildings before they are constructed and occupied, to investigate the impacts of various design decisions related to ventilation system design and building material selection, to evaluate indoor air quality control technologies, and to assess the indoor air quality performance of existing buildings. Predicted contaminant concentrations can also be used to estimate personal exposure based on occupancy patterns.

    Program Features
  • Version 3.2 added an ultra-violet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) filter model, contaminant exfiltration result files, a SQLite database result file, and co-simulation between the EnergyPlus whole building energy analysis program and CONTAM.
  • Version 3.1 introduced a variable time step ordinary differential equation solver (VODE) for solving the contaminant equations and coupling between the TRNSYS energy simulation program and CONTAM to enable combined energy, airflow and contaminant transport analysis.
  • Version 3.0 added a deposition with resuspension source/sink model, a self-regulating vent airflow model, and integrated coupling between Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and multizone modeling.
  • Version 2.4 introduced two new deposition sink models, a one-dimensional convection/diffusion contaminant model for ducts and user-selectable zones, new contaminant filter models, control super nodes, super filters, a duct balancing tool, building pressurization and model validity tests and several other usability enhancements.
  • Version 2.1 introduced more new features including the ability to account for spatially varying external contaminants and wind pressures at the building envelope, more new control elements, particle-specific contaminant properties, total mass released calculations and detailed program documentation.
  • Version 2.0 contained several new features including: non-trace contaminants, practically unlimited number of contaminants, contaminant-related libraries, separate weather and ambient contaminant files, building controls, scheduled zone temperatures, improved solver to reduce simulation times and several user interface related features to improve usability.
Expertise Required: 

Familiarity with buildings, building ventilation systems, building envelope leakage characteristics, and pollutant transport mechanisms.

Audience: 

Mechanical, environmental, and smoke control engineers; building designers; state and Federal agency staff; university faculty; researchers; private consultants.

Input: 

The user draws graphical, schematic representations of the building floor plans to define the topological relationship between building zones. Detailed inputs are required including: zone temperatures, airflow leakage paths through walls and floors, ductwork ventilation system flows, contaminant source strengths, filter efficiencies, ambient weather and contaminant data, building controls and schedules.

Input is via a Windows-based GUI, but the simulation engine can run in Windows, Linux and Mac OS.

Output: 

On-screen display of all pressure drops and flows superimposed on the graphic building description; on-screen graphs of transient airflows and contaminant concentrations; formatted reports of same; files suitable for import into spreadsheet programs consisting of zone pressures, interzone airflows, whole-building air change rates, contaminant concentrations and ages of air. Utilities are provided on the same website that enable visualization of results and export of results via graphical and batch/script control.

Strengths: 

CONTAM provides for analysis of very complex building configurations including interactions between HVAC system flows, wind-induced and stack-induced (buoyancy) airflows. Provides a rich set of contaminant source types including deposition and resuspension and contaminant filters. Enables coupling with whole building energy analysis software TRNSYS and EnergyPlus.

Country: 
United States
Major Capabilities: 
Air Flow Simulation
Building Type: 
Commercial
Residential
Multi Family
Industrial
Language: 
English
Platform: 
Linux
Windows
Mac OS X
Pricing: 
Free
Help and Support: 
Peer Support Forum
Last Software Update: 
04 September 2015
Last Entry Update: 
24 September 2018
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