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Vol 40  No 9
January 31, 2008


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CMS conducts motion testing for skyscraper

Soaring to new heights

Model of new Chicago skyline.

The word skyscraper evokes images of tall buildings in Manhattan, but did you know the word traditionally referred to the topsail of a ship?

It’s appropriate then that an engineering firm called on the research team at Marine Institute’s Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) to use their ship bridge simulator to conduct motion testing for the Chicago Spire, a super-tall skyscraper under construction in Illinois’s largest city.

Why use a ship bridge simulator to test a skyscraper? Craig Parsons, manager, Applied Research and Industrial Projects at CMS, explains:

“Motioneering Incorporation/RWDI Group, a company specializing in the design, development and monitoring of motion solutions for a wide range of structural applications, contacted CMS last fall,” he said. “Their client required testing and data collection of a skyscraper in high winds. They wanted to feel sway motions of the building in a wind tunnel test because they have never been able to do that before now.

“The fact that our bridge was large enough to accommodate a large number of people combined with the expertise and technology we employ, allowed us to simulate the conditions they were looking for,” he added.

In order to simulate these conditions as realistically as possible, the full mission ship bridge had to be transformed into a condominium living room. “It was really neat,” said Mr. Parsons. “The client brought in chandeliers, beautiful carpets, a kitchen table and chairs. They even had wine glasses and a love seat with some low level music playing in the background. It was as if you were sitting down in a living room, gazing out at the Chicago skyline.”

Peter Irwin, president of RWDI was very pleased with the results as well as the facilities. “Because of the design of the building, we were predicting a different type of wind response,” he said. “The building will not only sway from side to side but will also bend in the middle. Since we have only seen the simple swaying motion in the past, we were not exactly clear on how the double motion would affect the structure.

“Fortunately for us, CMS was able to simulate that using real motion and we were able to get the data we needed to find a solution. The simulation capabilities at CMS are truly impressive.”

The project was certainly a departure for CMS as they are mostly well known for their simulation-based training and applied research services in ship navigation, marine engineering and ship communications. However, it proved be a very exciting and worthwhile endeavour.

“The fact that they have never done testing like this before made this project very significant,” said Mr. Parsons. “Our client said that this is the first time they’ll ever be able to tell their clients what the building actually feels like when it moves. It’s great that we are bringing new ideas and projects to the simulator. We’ve done a lot of exciting things here and this is certainly one of them.”

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