The choice of the spatial submodel of a water resource recovery facility (WRRF) model should be one of the primary concerns in WRRF modelling. However, currently used mechanistic models are limited by an over-simplified representation of local conditions. This is illustrated by the general difficulties in calibrating the latest N2O models and the large variability in parameter values reported in the literature. The use of compartmental model (CM) developed on the basis of accurate hydrodynamic studies using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) can take into account local conditions and recirculation patterns in the activated sludge tanks that are important with respect to the modelling objective. The conventional tanks in series (TIS) configuration does not allow this. The aim of the present work is to compare the capabilities of two model layouts (CM and TIS) in defining a realistic domain of parameter values representing the same full-scale plant. A model performance evaluation method is proposed to identify the good operational domain of each parameter in the two layouts. Already when evaluating for steady state, the CM was found to provide better defined parameter ranges than TIS. Dynamic simulations further confirmed the CM's capability to work in a more realistic parameter domain, avoiding unnecessary calibration to compensate for flaws in the spatial submodel.