Cambridge winds blow into Ontario

Cambridge Consultants has devised a powerful wind simulation system with rapidly variable airflow and swirling effects that mimics natural destructive winds.

The company is undertaking final tests on the simulator before delivery to The University of Western Ontario (Western) for research into wind damage on low-rise buildings.

Using advice on wind behaviour from wind engineering consultants RWDI-Anemos, Cambridge Consultants’ system is capable of varying the speed and direction of airflow up to seven times a second. This allows an array of actuators to emulate the real-life swirling effects of destructive winds. The design can also dynamically adjust flow rate to maintain pressure, even as a structure begins to disintegrate. The results of Western’s research are expected to lead to more formal techniques for weatherproofing low-rise buildings in hurricane prone areas.

The simulator takes the form of modular pressure actuators, which are mounted against the exterior surface of a test structure. Each actuator can generate pressures equivalent to a category five hurricane, enabling realistic loads to be applied to full-size buildings for the first time.

A real-time control system, also being developed by Cambridge Consultants, will enable arrays of actuators to be co-ordinated to simulate complex wind effects over the entire surface of a test structure.

Western will use this simulation technology to apply realistic wind patterns onto real-world structures, beginning with a two-storey, pitched-roof dwelling currently nearing completion at ‘The Three Little Pigs’ research facility in London, Ontario.

Following completion of Cambridge Consultants’ development tests, Western expects to start commissioning the simulator this summer, using an initial batch of 10 actuators on a rig that will become a permanent facility for testing building materials. Around 100 modular actuators will then be fabricated, to create a wind simulator large enough to test complete low-rise buildings.