March 25, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 92  

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This Wind Tunnel really blows

By Lorraine Forster
Gazette Staff

The CN Tower, the Sears Tower, the World Trade Center and the Confederation Bridge. What do all of these structures have in common? They have all been tested in Western’s Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel.

The BLWT I, established in 1965, is an open-return tunnel and has a maximum wind speed of 55 kilometres an hour. “We are involved with wind effects on buildings and structures,” explains Tom Edey, director of operations at the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory. “We build scale models of buildings and blow wind at them and see how they respond.”

The boundary layer is the closest layer of wind to the earth; therefore, the things tested in the tunnel include buildings, golf courses and other structures, such as bridges. The purpose of the wind tunnel is to test structures to see how they respond to wind conditions. This information is then combined with climatic data from the area in which the structure will be built and used by architects in order to help them build a structure that can best withstand wind conditions.

For all of you golf fans out there, you will be pleased to know that our very own wind tunnel was recently featured in articles in Sports Illustrated and The Globe and Mail, which detailed an experiment done on a model of the Augusta National Golf Course. In April 2002, the BLWT became the first to focus on the wind conditions on the 12th hole, a.k.a “Amen Corner,” a hole which Jack Nicklaus once called “the hardest hole in golf.”

The experiment was conducted using topographical information supplied by Augusta National. For their first experiment on a golf course, the experts at the BLWT constructed a mini Amen Corner 10 feet in diameter and reproduced the prevailing April wind (from the south) and the typical velocity (median 7.5 mph) of a golf ball. The tough conditions of the 12th hole, formerly attributed to superstition, have now been proven to be caused by wind effects. The conclusion of the experiment was that the wind undergoes significant changes in direction along the shot trajectory on the 12th fairway.

While the information obtained from the wind tunnel experiments is undoubtedly valuable when constructing major bulidings, at the end of the day what is most important is the knowledge that our campus houses the technology to better our golf skills.

For more information on the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel, check out



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