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Research aims to tame the wind's impact

When Northeastern assistant professor of civil engineering Luca Caracoglia looks at how powerful winds affect very tall buildings, he is concerned not just with catastrophic structural failure, but also with how well buildings perform in more routine ways.

Do building occupants feel the wind effects or are they literally sheltered from storms? How well is a building able to maintain the integrity of its surfaces, such as facades?

Caracoglia recently received a $430,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the effects of wind on tall buildings with these kinds of questions in mind.

Titled, “An Innovative Performance-Based Simulation Framework for High-Rise Buildings against Wind Hazards,” the project will be devoted to the problem of “performance-based engineering” in the presence of wind hazards, focusing on what Caracoglia refers to as “ serviceability issues.”

As an example, he said, even though the structural system of a building is often unaffected after a severe wind event, buildings can require repairs to their façades because of dynamic vibration induced by high winds.

“In recent years … research has been centered on the area of risk-based assessment of structural integrity,” said Caracoglia. “My research will look at these uncertainties as well as simulation methods for performance-based wind engineering, which can contribute to the minimization of wind hazards and possibly to the advancement in the design of future high-rise buildings.”

Caracoglia will use computer analysis to calculate the conditional probability associated with performance loss in tall buildings, including such effects as the discomfort of occupants and damage levels to facades.

The grant from the NSF also includes an educational component, which will enable Caracoglia to improve his wind engineering graduate course and continue to train his graduate and undergraduate students in awareness of wind hazards.