Over the last century there has been a dramatic increase in the construction of tall and supertall buildings. Today we know that all tall buildings need to be able to move to withstand the effect of the wind, but it does create another challenge that is difficult to overcome – wind-induced creaking noise.
Taller and taller into the future
The 10-storey steel-frame Home Insurance Building in Chicago was completed in 1885. Because of the building's unique architecture and weight-bearing frame, it is considered the world's first skyscraper.
Construction techniques have come a long way since then, and today Dubai’s Burj Khalifa reigns supreme as the world tallest building at 830 m tall to tip. This record is not likely to last forever – statistical analysis predicts that by 2050, the tallest building will reach 1,134 m! 1
But as ambitious as our dreams of building taller and taller buildings may be, the reality is that turning high-rise buildings into comfortable living spaces is not an easy task. It involves expert engineering and special construction materials and techniques.
Wind and tall structures
One of the major and most complex challenges facing everyone involved in the construction of a tall structure, is wind stress or “wind loading”.
Tall structures need to be flexible enough to move with the high winds experienced at the top to withstand these strong forces. (View the interesting video on the design techniques used that allow tall buildings to withstand wind forces.)
The wind pressure on both external and internal components increases dramatically the higher you build, and all tall structures are designed to move in the wind. The amount of motion that can be expected in a tall building is approximately 1/200 to 1/500 the height. For the Burj Khalifa that translates to about two to four metres of swaying at the top.2
Designing tall structures that move in the wind is the only way to make them structurally sound, but it often leads to another problem: creaking noise in the structure as a result of the movement.
It is inevitable that the movement of tall buildings will lead to creaking noise originating in various parts of the structure, including the façade, bracing systems, services, ducts, internal non-structural walls and ceilings and all of their associated connections. Creaking noises can result in some or all of these areas, and contribute to unwanted sound that can have a negative impact on occupants’ lives.
The creaking noises can be subtle, or loud enough to disturb the sleep of residents. Inside the Burj Khalifa it can sound exactly like an old ship swaying in a stormy sea on a windy day. 3
Knauf Australia recently investigated wind-induced structure-borne noise originating from plasterboard wall and ceiling systems due to movement in tall structures at the Day Design Consulting Acoustical Engineer’s testing laboratory and the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.
These tests have not been concluded, but the first rounds of testing have already provided some very interesting and actionable insights, and Knauf was able to develop a number of practical recommendations to help minimise the problem.
To find out more, download our whitepaper: The Knauf Guide to Wind-Induced noise in Tall Structures.
(Please note: Knauf is planning further testing and investigation into wind-induced structure-borne noise originating from plasterboard wall and ceiling systems. Testing had to be temporarily put on hold due to the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, but when further test results become available, this blog and whitepaper will be updated. We will email the new version to you when it is published.)
- Emerging Technology from the arXiv, “Get ready for more and taller skyscrapers”, www.technologyreview.com/2018/08/20/2343/get-ready-for-more-and-taller-skyscrapers/, MIT Technology review, 20 August 2018
- Feblowitz, J.C., “Confusing the wind: The Burj Khalifa, Mother Nature and the modern skyscraper” http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/124/confusing-the-wind-the-burj-khalifa-mother-nature-and-the-modern-skyscraper
- Video: Inside Burj Khalifa during thunderstorm swaying making noise like a ship calmly sailing the seas.