Poor planning may have caused Locust wind tunnel

The placement of the high rises creates the wind tunnel between the three buildings

· December 4, 2013, 7:34 pm   ·  Updated December 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

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Wintertime is hard for those of us that have to take Locust Walk past the 38th street bridge.

The unique positioning of the three high rise dorms creates a wind tunnel, where wind travels at increased speeds, creating a wind tunnel.

“The air, like water, needs to have a channel to flow through … so you need to have tall buildings lined up to experience strong flow,” said Engineering professor Howard Hu.

Luckily — or unfortunately — Rodin, Harnwell and Harrison line Locust Walk, which runs west to east. This contributes to the increased wind speed.

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“On the east coast, normally the wind comes from the west to the east, so tall buildings have to be more or less aligned with the wind direction to experience an effect,” Hu said.

The lack of other high rise that would break up the flow of wind exacerbates the issue.

The tunnel has a long history in Penn lore. Daily Pennsylvanian articles going back to 1996 described the tunnel as a problem. It appears in a transfer student blog on Penn’s official NSO site, and University of Pennsylvania, Off the Record, a book published by CollegeProwler which mentions the wind tunnel as a fun fact.

But its novelty in writing does not extend to many students’ experience.

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“It’s awful, I hate it. I’m from Wisconsin, and even I think it’s cold,” said College sophomore Jake Lechnir, who lives in Rodin. “I usually try to avoid walking the 38th street bridge since the wind chill just makes it miserable,” saying that he’ll take a longer way, around Walnut Street, to his classes.

“I don’t know how they messed it up that badly. It’s honestly a deterrent from wanting to live in the high rises,” he added.

Lechnir has point. Hu believes that the wind tunnel might be in some part due to architectural error. “Usually, for tall buildings, the architect will evaluate what kind of winds the building will experience,” since those act as forces upon the building, said Hu.

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