Last month, the City of London Corporation unveiled new planning guidelines, requiring developers to do more analysis of the wind microclimate around proposed new buildings. It said that its proposals went beyond established thinking and set a new benchmark in planning.
But Nick Wirth, founder and technical director of Wirth Research, disagrees. He says that the new guidelines do not go far enough.
“With 13 new skyscrapers in the pipeline in London between now and 2026, it has never been more relevant to revisit the rules regarding new tall buildings,” said Nick Wirth. “The tougher guidelines… are clearly a step in the right direction, but they predominantly reflect the current industry ‘best practice’ rather than driving the situation significantly forward. In our opinion, they still do not go far enough.”
Historically, wind tunnel testing has been standard practice for assessing the wind impact of potential skyscrapers. Now, though, new developments will require computer simulations of wind effect – one of Wirth Research’s specialist areas – at the very beginning of the design process.
Nick Wirth is a former Formula 1 team owner and designer, and pioneered the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) in motorsport. He has since transferred that to the built environment sector – with projects including Apple Park in California, 22 Bishopsgate and the Bloomberg European HQ in London.
Wirth Research has been collaborating in recent months with digital twin planning platform VU.City, providing CFD-generated wind analysis to help produce 3D city models.
Nick Wirth said that his company already operated to a higher standard than what the City of London has put forward. “Adopting more stringent demands should be a prerequisite across the board,” he said.
“Whereas traditional wind tunnels require model creation at 300:1 – which means any details smaller than one metre are very difficult to accurately capture – our CFD service provides resolutions down to 50mm, modelled in full scale. Couple this with the unrivalled precision of VU.City’s 3D models, and we are confident of delivering the most accurate and consistent 3D model of London to-date – and that exercise, of course, can be repeated in other cities around the country and throughout the world.”
Jason Hawthorne, co-founder of VU.City, said: “There’s actually no excuse for new buildings in London that don’t address the microclimate at ground level. Gone are the days when physical models had to be created and time booked in the wind tunnel. Using highly accurate digital modelling combined with computational fluid dynamics can quickly identify issues with wind, meaning proposals can be adapted in real time to find solutions and prevent costly mistakes.
“VU.City is collaborating with Wirth Research to test widescale simulations at a level previously unachievable. Nick Wirth developed the business on the back of many years owning and working with Formula 1 teams to do exactly this. That expertise now means we can look at the City to consider the cumulative effects of consented schemes.
“Other areas of London – and other cities – will also need to address this. VU.City’s modelling allows local authorities and developers to work together from a very early stage to see how the development of a whole area, rather than an individual site will impact cyclists and pedestrians.
“High-rise definitely has a role to play in the future of our cities, and using technology will enable this development to take place and still create spaces that are pleasant for everyone to use."
To read more about the City of London Corporation'swind guidelines, see its Design Guidance site.