Thought Leadership

Advantages of Wind Tunnel Testing for Buildings and Bridges

Advanced wind engineering can improve occupant comfort and safety, save capital and operations costs, and help to realize ambitious architectural visions.

Why do a wind tunnel test?

Technical, Economic, Safety & Aesthetic Advantages 

Today’s architects and engineers challenge the traditional boundaries of their craft, using high-tech materials and innovative structural design techniques to create buildings and structures as true art expressions. In addition, new structures are being designed for complex situations and surroundings (i.e., near terrain or other structures). Yet, wind loads provided in most codes and standards haven’t kept up. They are based on a range of building shapes that were common over 40 years ago and many codes recognize that wind tunnel tests will lead to more reliable loading estimates that result in savings, peace of mind and maximum creative freedom. Progressive designers and engineers understand that significant savings in cost of structure and cladding can be obtained by completing a wind tunnel test in the early stage of the design.

RWDI's 24ft wind tunnel

A wide range of wind engineering work is completed in RWDI’s state-of-the-art wind tunnels.

Wind tunnel testing delivers: 

  • Accurate results to minimize assumptions 
  • Opportunity for architectural expression 
  • Construction savings for the owner 
  • Improve earning potential with maximum floor space 
  • Assurance – often recommended by code 
  • Increased litigation protection

When should a wind tunnel test be done?

Early Design Stage 

In the early planning stages, careful attention to the effects of wind, snow, ventilation, vibration, and related microclimate environmental issues on buildings and structural are proven to save time, save money, and reduce risk. 

Tall Buildings and Unique Designs

Wind tunnel testing is advisable on buildings higher than 22 stories (10 stories in hurricane areas) or where the building or structure is an unusual shape or construction methodology. Unusual terrain or surrounding structures in the area also make wind tunnel testing an important step to optimize cost efficiencies, generate accurate results to enhance the safety of a project, minimize assumptions and allow for maximum design freedom.

Typical projects for RWDI wind tunnel testing:

  • Skyscrapers and tall buildings 
  • Groups of buildings
  • Long span roofs 
  • Tunnels 
  • Industrial and institutional facilities 
  • Long span pedestrian or automotive bridges 
  • Sporting stadiums 
  • Casinos 
  • Other tall or wind-sensitive structures

The Economic Advantages of RWDI Wind Tunnel Testing

In the firm’s vast experience, typically the returns on investment on wind tunnel testing can be significant relative to the total project costs.

table showing savings due to wind testing

Read more case studies

How can we help inform your design?

As world leaders in wind, we’ve informed the design of many of the world’s tallest buildings, as well as hundreds of other towers, long-span bridges, and stadia around the world. 

Explore our wind services