Model city takes brunt of capital's wind tests

01:12, Dec 26 2013
model city
WINDY CITY: Neil Jamieson with a scale model of Wellington's city centre, used to measure the effect of the wind.

For anyone who has described living in Wellington as like being in a wind tunnel, here is the proof.

Wellington's own wind tunnel, in an old storage facility in Lower Hutt, is about to be decommissioned.

A scale model of central Wellington, set up inside the wind tunnel, has been used to test the impact of the wind on proposed new buildings since the 1970s.

"Every new building planned for the CBD has to have a wind report," Opus International Consultants researcher Neil Jamieson said.

The polystyrene city can help predict the behaviour of wind gusts around a new building and can lead to significant design changes.

Bran flakes are sprinkled about to measure the wind flow.

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The model has been added to and tinkered with constantly since the 1970s, making a big contribution to the liveability of Wellington, Mr Jamieson said.

For example, the Majestic Tower in Willis St and Boulcott St was originally designed as a rectangular box.

However, the wind tunnel test results were so bad that major changes were made to the design of the building.

"That's why you have a big canopy over Boulcott St, and more of an oval design, to cut out the wind flowing down the buildings on to pedestrians."

Other areas to benefit from wind tunnel testing over the years have included Midland Park and Wellington's waterfront.

Wellington is more consistently windy than most places around the world. Gusts exceed gale-force (75kmh) about 175 days every year at the airport.

Ropes were once needed to help pedestrians stay upright on intersections like Taranaki St and Courtenay Place, but changes to nearby buildings had helped over the years, Mr Jamieson said.

"We believe that if people want to go outside, they should be able to."

Opus would investigate the building of a new wind tunnel when it moved to Petone in the new year, Mr Jamieson said.

The Dominion Post