If you work within earshot of a functioning intercom speaker in any of the health sciences facilities, you will recognize the implications of the above alert. The wind gusts through the tunnel area between the Malcolm Moos Health Sciences Tower (Unit A) and the Philips-Wangensteen Building (Unit B/C) has the power to stop you in your tracks, push you back, and quite possibly knock you over.
It does not take a particularly windy day to create this effect. In fact, the narrow space within this cluster of buildings amplifies any sustained wind.
The force of this unintentional wind tunnel became evident after the completion of the Philips-Wangensteen Building in 1979. Shortly thereafter, concerns developed about how the problem might be aggravated by the next phase of planned construction: the new hospital (Unit J). Two major fears were that the new hospital would increase the wind shear at the pedestrian level or may cause a downward draft bringing chemical fumes vented from the roof tops of the Mayo Building and Diehl Hall.
After a wind related “incident” in January of 1980 at the outpatient entrance on Delaware St., a memo suggested the need to evaluate the extreme wind conditions and to develop a plan to minimize the risks. That memo led to a 1981 study of the wind tunnel effect at the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The 1980 memo and subsequent documentation on implementing the wind tunnel study are available below. Or, read the final technical report issued by the WBWT in 1982.