John Kilpatrick
Practice Area Leader
RWDI, Toronto

Many of the buildings that pioneered supertall development over the past 50 years—buildings like the 875 N. Michigan and Willis Tower—were designed, engineered and built in Chicago. These towers represented milestones in wind engineering practice. Though using state-of-the art methods at the time, surprisingly few of the predictions of tall building response were validated using field measurements of wind-induced behavior. Structural and wind engineering communities have advanced significantly since these early investigations. In the early 2000s the Chicago Tall Building Study of wind-induced response of tall buildings provided much-needed confirmation of wind tunnel predictions. At the same time, supertall buildings began to exceed 500 meters, and the use of damping technology was increasingly adopted to ensure buildings met performance targets.

Advancements in tall buildings will continue over the next 50 years, combining the best of energy dissipation technologies matured in other industries with incremental improvements in material properties and structural design schemes. A recent proliferation of affordable monitoring hardware provides validation of these design improvements. Data collected during both weak and strong winds should be analyzed and compared to target performance metrics, and lessons learned should be shared. Select examples of in-situ measurements of building behavior, wind tunnel validations and damping technologies inform future needs for the design community.