When you're walking around malls or parking structures, or a building corner, you'll sometimes notice areas with consistent windiness.

I was wondering what positions, angles, wind direction, pressure, temperature or other variables would be involved if one were to try to design a home or building to get this consistent windy effect.

Sometimes it can be as simple as building corners (at least apparently).

I'm currently sitting in a very consistently windy passageway of a building. Roughly speaking, the building is an L-shaped building that blocks wind on either side, but has an arched hole where you can walk through. Other areas nearby aren't windy. Maybe it's because one side is sunny and the other is not, creating a pressure gradient. On the sunny side there also seems to be a heat exchanger with fins, which could also contribute to the temperature gradient. Other factors could be a wall that "catches" the wind and funnels more air through the passageway.

       |    |                   |
            |                   |
       |    | 2 story building  |
 park  |                 >>
 struct          WIND~  >> arch passageway 
 with  |               >^> _____    
 holes           ---   ^^|     |
       |   heaterl l   & |     |    shady area
                 ---     |     |________________
       |                 |                      |  
                         |  2 story building    |
       |    sunny area   |______________________|

What I just described is a specific example, but I'm looking to generalize the principles to potentially utilize in architecture or when looking at homes to buy that could achieve this effect with some modification. (Do architects learn this stuff? In modern architecture stuff like this seems to be under-appreciated.)

Is temperature gradients and "funnel" geometry of walls significant in creating a pressure gradient (wind)?


1 Answer 1


Any kind of "funnel" - an area where tall buildings create an obstacle to the free flow of air - acts as an amplifier to wind. That is, even a little bit of air moving from point A to point B will notice the "obstacle" that is a pair of buildings; it will build up pressure in front of the buildings and result in a faster flow of air through the passage.

An example of this is the "wind tunnel" - a passage at Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY) where it appears to be always windy. As some people say "that would be a great design in Arizona, but it's in Upstate New York".

Presumably some good architectural colleges teach this stuff. But architects get plenty of things wrong with the "final product". For example, the famous building in London with a curved mirror-like surface that was said to have melted a car:

enter image description here

And the damage:

enter image description here

The really scary thing? This architect had made the same mistake before… and apparently did not learn. So whatever they try to teach in architecture school about taking account of the interactions between your building and the elements - it's not working.

  • $\begingroup$ WOW. architectural magnifying glass burning human ants. $\endgroup$
    – ahnbizcad
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:00
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    $\begingroup$ @gwho yes that's almost certainly the case. If the passage is facing the sun there will be a temperature difference that will ensure there is always a little bit of wind - and then the gap amplifies it. But without details of the specific building you are talking about it's hard to know how big of a role that might play. $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ lmao, they call the location a "hot spot". "This isn't the first time that a building designed by architect Rafael Vinoly has been the FOCUS of such HEATED attention." Writers crack me up. I was at the Vdara. I'm definitely searching for the spot next time. The "H" spot. It'll probably easier to find than the G $\endgroup$
    – ahnbizcad
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So is this basically a Bernoulli effect? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm visiting a school in Saudi Arabia right now. The buildings on campus are very much designed to create air currents of this kind (there are buoyant effects at play too). It's a huge help in this heat. Also fun to look at windcatchers, they can produce airflow within a building using air blowing over it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 6:36

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