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Occupant comfort, cognitive performance and
task performance in wind-excited tall buildings
– Australian Research Council Discovery Project

In the past two decades, to cope with the continuing worldwide demands for offices and residences associated with population growth and lifestyle changes, there has been a surge in the construction of tall and super tall buildings, which reach heights of 1,000 m. The new generation of tall buildings are increasingly wind-sensitive and susceptible to enhanced wind excitations, particularly for buildings located in regions with high winds, that heighten occupant perception of motion and cause fear and alarm. Prolonged exposure to these vibrations may cause discomfort and fatigue, affect task concentration and even trigger dizziness, migraine and nausea, particularly for motion-sickness prone occupants.

Professor Kenny Kwok from the University of Western Sydney, Australia is leading a team of researchers to investigate the effects of wind-induced vibration on occupants of tall buildings. This project is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant. The multi-disciplinary team includes Professor Vaughan Macefield, School of Medicine, UWS, Dr Peter Hitchcock from The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, and Dr Darren Walton of Opus International Consultants, N.Z. The research is vital for delivering performance-based and cost-effective tall buildings that can withstand strong winds and provide occupants with a comfortable working and living environment. Further details may be found at:

The project is currently recruiting research staff to assist with the research program to be conducted at HKUST.

The project integrates wind engineering, physiological and psychological methodologies to achieve a fundamental understanding of the role of human physiology and psychology in occupant comfort and work performance in buildings subjected to wind-induced vibration. This research, which is to be based on experimental manipulation of the effects of low-frequency planar vibration on people in a motion simulator, general population surveys on prior experience of and reaction to building motion, and a field survey of occupants in wind-excited buildings, aims:

  1. To characterise the physiological responses to vibration-induced discomfort and motion sickness;

  2. To characterise the psychological factors that may influence the physiological responses to building vibration;

  3. To develop measures for the experimental and real-world covariates of the influence of building excitation on task performance.

One of the main tools of the research project is a 2DOF tall building motion simulator located at the CLP Power Wind/Wave Tunnel Facility (WWTF) at HKUST. The motion simulator has the capability to simulate vibrations from 1 Hz down to 0.06 Hz that are representative of buildings that range from under 50 m to over 1000 m tall. Uni-axial or bi-axial vibrations of different targeted waveforms can be simulated and the accelerations generated are well above those perceptible to the normal population and can reach sufficiently high levels to cause discomfort.

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