Into the Wind

Buildings can have a significant impact on wind conditions for pedestrians and vehicles

Many cities in New Zealand and around the world have wind rules for new large buildings as these can make wind conditions for people worse, or even dangerous.

Wind engineers at WSP Opus Research regularly undertake testing and assessment of proposed buildings to try and meet these wind rules. We can also provide early design advice, advise on mitigation measures if problems occur, and test different options in our wind tunnel.

One design aspect that is often neglected, until problems occur, are building entrances. Strong gusty winds around a building entrance can make the transition from a calm interior space to a very windy exterior space unpleasant. In strong winds, entrances may even be unusable. Wind flows can also penetrate into the building, making conditions cold or unpleasant for those in the building.

In Wellington’s famously windy conditions, these problems became apparent around several of Wellington Hospital’s main entrances. Having already been built, the positioning of the entrances could not be changed, and any redesign would have to also work with the existing look, feel and accessibility of the buildings. On the basis of our many years of experience, we recommended some design options intended to make people safer and more comfortable, and that were also in keeping with the aesthetics of the buildings.

On a larger scale, WSP Opus Research is currently assessing the impact on vehicles of potential changes to building height regulations near the Newmarket Viaduct in Auckland. This is because the effects of buildings can potentially make wind conditions dangerous, even overturning trucks in extreme winds.

Early involvement in the wind design of buildings and structures can help provide a safe and comfortable wind environment for people, communities and vehicles.