18 APR 20 | Wind Wizards

Wind Engineering on the Gateways

Have you ever heard of Wind Engineering for pedestrian wind comfort and safety? Not to throw myself under the bus here, but analyzing wind on how it can affect users’ experience of a building was a new concept for me up until the Denver Housing Authority reached out to SOH Wind Engineering to conduct some testing on The Gateways elevated exterior walkways.

Curious to learn more about the process, I reached out the Robert Stewart – General Manager of SOH Engineering in Williston, Vermont – to better understand the importance of Wind Engineering, what the process looks like, and the takeaways on Gateway North and South, currently under construction.


Step 1:  Receive the digital building model from the Architects

Step 2: Send the model to a 3-D printer

It’s amazing to me the details that 3-D printers can print these days! The engineers then painted the buildings pink in order to stand out from the rotation board.

Step 3: Model the surrounding landscape

By using programs such as Google Earth, they projected the landscape onto their rotating table to then model the surrounding buildings using foam. Their model includes any intended future development within a 250-m radius of the site.

Step 4: Hook up the Irwin Probe

The plastic tubes are placed to collect wind velocities (speed). These tubes are connected to Irwin Probes (pictured bottom left of the image). The probes measure air pressure from two different vantage points; the tip of the probe simulates where the head of a person would be, while the base of the probe collects wind speed at surface levels.


Captain, start your engine – it’s time to turn on the wind! Measurements are taken for a full 360° rotation, with increments of 10°, to capture the complete pedestrian wind environment at the site.

Step 6: Measure and analyze 

The pedestrian wind comfort is categorized by either “Comfortable” or “Uncomfortable” at each probe location. Their analysis evaluates comfort across 4 criteria: (1) Walking purposefully or business walking, (2) Strolling or window shopping, (3) Standing and sitting for short exposure and (5) Standing and sitting for long exposure.

This chart was taken from the studies on The Gateways.


So we learned that the exterior elevated walkways will serve its purpose, as residents will be able to comfortably walk along and hold conversation without the fear of being knocked over by wind. But, what if studies ever come back as uncomfortable – what can be changed to fix it? Some simple recommendations would be to plant more trees and include more walls to mitigate the wind. Certain railings are also better for wind than others, such as porous railing to break up the wind, rather than solid. 


SOH Wind Engineering was incorporated in the United States in 2011 and my teacher-for-a-day, General Manager Robert Stewart, played a large role in working with their headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark to create a wind tunnel here in the United States and open business.

SOH conducts many other types of testing, such as testing long-span suspension bridges, pollution disbursement, and predicting how much high skyscrapers might sway (ensuring residents won’t get seasick in their own apartments). Robert’s background is in Mechanical Engineering, specializing in Engineering Management. For quite a busy guy, he took the time to educate me so that I could share with you all. Thanks, Robert!


Thanks for reading!

Maris DuBois | Studio Manager
18 April 2020