THA and PSU Collaborate on Wind Tunnel Testing

by Miguel Hidalgo

Taking advantage of an opportunity to partner within our community, THA is collaborating with a team of Portland State University’s Architecture and Engineering students on the design of certain elements within a Land Port of Entry facility in Laredo, Texas. The student team’s goal is to investigate the impact of building mass, canopy shape and site wall height on wind direction and speed. THA’s design team and the student team worked together during the fall 2012 semester to develop site scale and building scale models for testing within the University’s wind tunnel laboratory. The results of these studies will inform the development of the project design as it proceeds from the schematic design to the design development phase.

Initial canopy and site designs were studied using Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling. Modeling different height for air intake and exhaust helped the team develop an understanding of the potential impact each variable had on air flow and occupant comfort.

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Examples of CFD analysis of the Bus Inspection area [images courtesy of PSU]

While CFD modeling is an effective tool, the current standard for testing air flow is wind tunnel testing. The computer analysis allowed the team to refine the questions being asked and suggested that further investigation of both whole site wind flows and canopy specific flows was needed. To that end, the PSU team built a site scale model and a building scale model of the canopy for wind tunnel testing.

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Site model undergoing tests in PSU’s wind tunnel [image courtesy of PSU]

The final results suggested that incorporating passive features (wind collecting walls and roof top scoops) may reduce the need for mechanical evacuation of vehicle exhaust air below the canopies. During the spring 2013 semester this working relationship will continue with a more detailed analysis of the canopies and their interaction with site elements. THA expects that collaboration to be as fruitful as the one that came before.

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