Across the world, towers continue climbing to ever-taller heights. They may be marvels of engineering and human ingenuity, but these super-tall skyscrapers haven’t quite solved one niggling issue: sway. In spite of all of the technological mechanisms in place to keep the structures stable, wind still manages to effect small amounts of building movement. And that subtle motion could be making inhabitants sick, sleepless, and depressed.
A new government-funded joint initiative by the U.K.’s Universities of Exeter and Bath will put this theory to the test, examining the connection between building movement and adverse experiences like sickness, tiredness, bad concentration, and a lack of motivation. Over the next five years, a group of engineers, medical professionals, physiologists, and psychologists will band together to build a first-of-its kind virtual simulator that will measure the impact of different levels of vibration on people, as experienced in not only tall buildings, but also stadiums and concert venues. The project is expected to cost some £7.25 million.
“Our recent field studies have shown that wind-induced building motion can cause sopite syndrome (a motion-related neurological disorder) or early onset motion sickness,” said Professor Kenny Kwok of the University of Western Sydney, Australia.
“This new facility will be utilized to advance our understanding of the prevalence of sopite syndrome and its adverse effects on building occupants, and guide the formulation of acceptability criteria for building motion to address its adverse effects on occupant wellbeing and work performance.”
Previous studies have linked small building sway to motion sickness and anxiety, in a phenomenon called “sick building syndrome.”