Using Wind Monitoring to Apply Building Codes

Wind load calculations are important in any structural design. However, wind loads become critical when designing skyscrapers, since they are the largest horizontal forces involved. Skyscrapers have a large area on which the wind can exert force, and this area only increases with building height. These constructions also experience winds that become stronger with altitude: high above the ground, there are few obstacles slowing down the wind.

Structural designs become more challenging when many tall buildings are close together. Since buildings change wind patterns around them, they can affect the loads experienced by neighboring properties. Therefore, any building design must consider the effect of other structures - not only the existing ones, but also simultaneous constructions and future projects.

- Since future buildings can change wind patterns, ongoing weather monitoring is important to detect emerging risks.
- In addition, the wind data collected from existing buildings can serve as a design reference for new construction projects.
- Dangerous conditions caused by the interaction between the wind and new properties can also be detected, to take preventive action.

Since wind loads are critical for a safe structural design, calculation procedures are covered in detail by codes like ASCE 7 and the International Building Code (IBC). However, there is a key challenge when these codes are applied internationally: many calculations depend on local wind data, which may be limited or unavailable in some places. The alternative is analyzing loads with a wind tunnel and a building model to scale, but this is an expensive approach.
 

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Calculating Wind Loads with Limited Weather Data

Adapting international standards to create local building codes is relatively simple. However, gathering the wind information necessary to apply these codes is much more challenging.

- An accurate and reliable wind monitoring system is of great help when local weather agencies provide little or no data.
- There is no global database that provides wind data for structural design, forcing developers and contractors to measure it directly.

Even if the wind data required by ASCE 7 or the IBC is available, it does not account for micro climates at the project site. For example, groups of tall buildings can create tunnels that accelerate the wind. This affects wind loads for both existing buildings and new constructions. Tall buildings can also make the streets below very windy, since they displace a large amount of air downward - this is called the downdraught effect. These conditions can only be detected with direct measurements, since their scale is too small to affect general weather forecasts and meteorological data.

Weather monitoring systems become powerful safety tools after the design process, especially when tower cranes are involved. During construction, having access to live weather data 24/7 becomes more important than observing long-term patterns. The wind can change within seconds, and project managers can make better decisions when they know the exact weather conditions at project sites. Conventional weather forecasts are useful as a reference, but they provide no information about gusts and other sudden changes in the wind.

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