As part of Member Appreciation Month, this week we're showcasing one of our longest-standing members: the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory (BLWTL) at Western University, in London, Ontario. When it opened in 1965, BLWTL, part of Western University’s Faculty of Engineering, was a first-of-its-kind wind-testing facility and was used to assess the Sante Fe Tower. Founded and designed by civil engineering professor Alan G. Davenport, BLWTL was built to test structures in realistic wind conditions in a scaled simulation of the earth’s boundary layer (the section of the atmosphere where the velocity of wind increases with height and air is turbulent and variable), extending upward from the Earth’s surface approximately one kilometer.
Prof. Davenport among models tested in the BLWTL. Image courtesy WindEEE Research Facility.
Recognized as the birthplace of the modern practice of wind engineering, the BLWTL facility and its researchers have contributed to safer and more economical structures across the globe—many of them iconic—including the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, Burj Khalifa, CN Tower, Torre Reforma, and countless others. And its projects are not limited to buildings: bridges and even NASA rockets are tested at BLWTL.
BLWTL continues its experimental legacy today and has expanded to include two large, fully operational boundary layer wind tunnels. Additionally, wind engineering studies at Western University have influenced the improvement of the existing facilities, as well as the development of other pioneering wind-testing laboratories: the WindEEE Research Facilities, which focus on the three Es: wind engineering, energy, and environment. These laboratories, the WindEEE Dome and the “3 Little Pigs” (3LP) Project, can simulate complex wind systems. The Dome is the first hexagonal wind chamber capable of modifying wind patterns, including tornadoes, downbursts, and other three-dimensional unsteady wind fields. The 3LP lab offers wind-load testing for small full-scale structures, building components, and cladding systems, as well as enables the assessment of wind-driven rain phenomena under realistic environmental conditions.
Girma Bitsuamlak, Director WindEEE Research Facilities (The Dome + BLWTL + 3LP)
Peter Case, Director of Operations BLWTL
Gregory Kopp, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Angela Mejorin, Postdoctoral Researcher