Volume 95, Issue 16

Thursday, September 27, 2001
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Western tested World Trade Center

Homers come home for Homecoming

Rez chaos: Outcasts still waiting for rooms

'Forgotten purple' find home with USC

Art gallery reverses decision on Arab art

Five million reasons to cure ALS

Cigarette companies choke on label dispute

Western tested World Trade Center

By Erin Conway-Smith
Gazette Staff

The windiest place at Western has a special connection to the World Trade Center.

A mock-up model of the WTC was one of the first structures to be tested at Western's Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory, a centre that tests models of buildings, bridges and other structures, said Tom Edey, director of operations.

The WTC was tested before being built in 1969 by longtime director Alan Davenport, who was unavailable for comment.

"The 'Boundary Layer' is the wind at the surface of the earth," Edey said, explaining the centre's name.

Tests in the Wind Tunnel involve blowing wind at models of buildings and cities in one of two main test sites. The sway of the building is studied and the effects of the wind on surrounding buildings are measured.

The results are then relayed to architects and contractors for design considerations. However, such tests are unable to predict the affects of a large plane crash or other catastrophe.

The WTC model is painted black, making it an unusual sight. The coating is a design function necessary for tests measuring the flow of air, Edey said.

"It is painted black because of [smoke] flow visualization," he said, explaining it makes the white smoke used in certain tests showing the flow of air visible.

This allows architects and civil engineers to watch the stream of air flow around the building, aiding their ability to remedy flaws in structural design.

Other well-known structures tested in the Wind Tunnel include the CN Tower, the Sears Building, Confederation Bridge and Toronto's Commerce Court, Edey said.

Doug Roberts, a post-doctorate student involved in the computational fluid dynamics modelling of high intensity winds, said the Wind Tunnel can identify wide-reaching problems.

"Buildings can become unstable when wind comes around it. It can create dangerous situations," he said.

Leslie Yott, an estimator with Ellis-Don Construction Ltd., said some projects completed by her firm have been tested at the Wind Tunnel as well.

"If we were doing something like a downtown arena, we would use the wind tunnel to test the wind pressure on adjacent buildings," she said.

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