Andy Mak

Innovation:
The Digital Wind Method

Principal Structural Engineer, Aurecon; BE (Structural), University of NSW

Trained in Australia, Andy Mak is a tall buildings expert working on an international stage from Dubai. In his work, he has noticed that structural engineers are far removed from the derivation of tall building dynamic response to wind loading.

To address this problem, Mak married traditional wind tunnel methods with the power of modern computers to develop what he calls the digital wind method. It enables structural engineers to directly solve for themselves the wind-induced dynamic effects on complex and tall buildings.

“The age of modern computing has enabled engineers to solve large and complex problems that a generation ago were simply considered ‘pie in the sky'.”

Andy Mak

The method enables a structural engineer to use commonly available finite element software to directly solve for building dynamic response and, concurrently, the performance of auxiliary damping devices during severe and frequent windstorm events.

The digital wind method starts by capturing the wind flow around a physical model of the building inside a wind tunnel using traditional pressure tap techniques.

The data captured from the pressure taps are then converted into numerous digital forcing functions to represent the along-wind and crosswind effects for the full height of the building.

These digital forcing functions can then be imported into finite element software to allow structural engineers to analyse the real-time behaviour and dynamic response of the building under the recorded wind event.

A model shows how wind forces can act on a tall building.

“The age of modern computing has enabled engineers to solve large and complex problems that a generation ago were simply considered ‘pie in the sky’,” Mak said.

“Practically all our work functions have now been converted into digital processes, which have become the conduit for delivering our expertise.”

In 2018, Mak presented the digital wind method as a keynote speaker at the Australasian Wind Engineering Society annual conference. In his speech, he lobbied the Australian Standards Wind Loading Committee to incorporate advanced tools to help design highly complex structures.

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