July 18, 2019 | 81° F

Rutgers community discusses wind levels on Livingston campus

Photo by Yangeng Lin |

Livingston Campus is known for its windy sidewalks and roads. The tall buildings, coupled with wide areas nearby, most likely contribute to this.

Students on Livingston campus are buffeted by winds that carry their complaints out into the atmosphere.

Yianni Tamanas, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and vice president of the Rutgers University Society of Physics Students, believes that the buildings on Livingston are aligned in such a way that funnels the air onto walkways where students pass.

“This would, however, imply that the wind in open areas, like the one between the(Livingston) Plaza stop and the Livingston Student Center, is not as violent as the wind by Lucy Stone,” he said.

But the open spaces allow wind to flow smoothly and unimpeded from certain directions before reaching the buildings on Livingston,  said Mark Miller, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Open areas usually have higher winds, said Alan Robock, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Unlike other campuses, Livingston has open spaces and flat regions, Miller said.

The buildings can channel the wind, creating a wind tunnel effect in narrow openings, Robock said.

The lack of large trees, such as those present on both Cook and Douglass campuses, prevents the wind from slowing down before it reaches students, said Craig Phelps, a professor at the Department of Environmental Science.

Meteorologist Anthony Broccoli, chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences, said he agreed with Phelps.

“There are no mature trees on much of the Livingston campus, especially in the areas around the apartments, the student center and the dining hall,” he said.

Livingston campus sits at a higher elevation than the valley of the Raritan River, Broccoli said.

Steven Decker, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said Livingston is situated on a hilltop and is more exposed to the wind

But this phenomenon is not endemic to Livingston campus, Decker said.

“I hear students complaining about the wind crossing Skelley Field on Cook campus all the time,” he said.

This situation persists in other areas with tall buildings, particularly cities, said Robert Bartynski, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I suspect that the combination of the flat, open nature of Livingston, combined with a number of several-story-tall buildings that redirect the wind in between them, would give rise to the effect,” Bartynski said.

Ground winds are a well-known problem in cities with skyscrapers which were designed before engineers became aware of the issue, said Eva Andrei, a distinguished professor from the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“Accelerated winds near skyscrapers are caused by the ‘downdraught effect,’” she said. 

Wind hits a building and is pushed up, down and around the sides, because the wind has nowhere else to go, she said. The air forced downwards increases wind speed at street level. Narrow roads between skyscrapers concentrate the wind, causing gusts. The effect can be seen in New York City.

An article published in July 2015 by BBC explained London’s problems with the downdraught effect and what scientists call an “urban canyon.”

“Architects test skyscraper designs in wind tunnels to ensure there would be no damage to structures,” said London architect Steve Johnson. “But the potential effect on people living and working down below is becoming more of a focus for study.”

London’s reaction to this problem has been to redesign some street layouts to be 45 degrees to the wind, but this only works in areas where the wind comes from only a single direction, according to the article. Researchers are racing to find alternatives to the current build of skyscrapers, but every change has a cost and benefit.

Bushra Hasan

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