Research Report 2008

Blowin in the wind

Imagine lounging in your luxury high-rise apartment, soft music playing and a fine glass of Merlot in hand, when all of a sudden, you’d swear you’re on an ocean liner in the middle of the North Atlantic. This is just the thing the builders of the Chicago Spire want to avoid. But where could they go to conduct motion testing?

One simple web search not only solved their problem, but offered a challenge to our researchers as well.

Initially drawn to work at the Centre for Marine Simulation because of its success with motion sickness testing, manager Craig Parsons was soon remodelling the ship bridge simulator to replicate a luxury condo, complete with wine and crystal chandeliers. Wind testing began in earnest to see how living on the 140th floor would feel in the middle of a Chicago windstorm. For the first time, marine simulation technology was applied to a land-based structural test, and builders were able to feel how the building would move long before the concrete set.

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.” In fact, Motioneering Incorporation/RWDI Group started with an internet search on ‘simulation’, found a report on motion sickness tests conducted by a researcher at CMS, and called up the team.

“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,” Mr. before Parsons 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 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. “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 endeavor.

Why use a ship bridge simulator to test a skyscraper? Mr. Parsons 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.” In fact, Motioneering Incorporation/RWDI Group started with an internet search on ‘simulation’, found a report on motion sickness tests conducted by a researcher at CMS, and called up the team.

Copyright © 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland