VSimulators: Human factors simulation for motion and serviceability in the built environment

Vibration Engineering staff led by Professor James Brownjohn have been awarded a £3.25m grant by EPSRC to create a new simulator facility for study of interactions between humans and the moving built environment. The simulator will use a mechanical hexapod to drive a 4 metre square platform in all 6 axes with accelerations and displacements representing typical movements of a range of civil structures (floors, footbridges, grandstands) where comfort of human users and occupants is critical.

The simulator will be fully instrumented with an array of force plates, inertial and optical motion capture and head mounted virtual reality for nine occupants.

This grant is part of a large investment by EPSRC and both Universities of Exeter and Bath; a University of Bath team let by Anthony Darby have simultaneously been awarded a £1.65m grant for a complementary simulator for study of large amplitude building sway at low frequencies typical of tall and super-tall buildings.

Co-funding from Universities of Bath and Exeter for infrastructure, additional equipment and staffing beyond the three year initial EPSRC funding amounts to £2.42m, and the total project cost will be £7.25m.

VSimulators will provide cross-disciplinary capability to address deficiency of information on human factors, environment and structure motion on engagement with the built environment:

  • For slender sustainable structures, e.g. tall buildings, vibration serviceability is a critical design constraint poorly (if at all) addressed by design codes, hence a need for bespoke customised acceptance criteria.
  • Effects of low level vibrations coupled with sound/noise, light, pollution, smell, temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors which contribute to the mysterious sick building syndrome.
  • Mobility and rehabilitation in an aging population cost the National Health Service £bns per year. Rehabilitation of motion-impaired patients is a major problem.

The Exeter investigator team comprises:

James Brownjohn                   Principal Investigator, Structural Dynamics

Alex Pavic                               Co-Investigator, Vibration Serviceability

Paul Reynolds                         Co-investigator, Vibration Control

Vicki Goodwin                        Co-investigator, Healthcare, Rehabilitation

Mateusz Bocian                      Co-investigator, Virtual Reality

The Bath team comprises:

Antony Darby                         Principal Investigator, Structural Engineering

Sukumar Natarajan                Co-investigator, Environmental Design

David Coley                            Co-investigator, Building Occupant Behaviour

Ian Walker                              Co-investigator, Environmental Psychology

A facility manager is being recruited to work with research and commercial users to maximise facility use. Experimental officers will manage operations at the Exeter and Bath sites, James Bassitt at Exeter will supervise the Bath EO.

The international advisory team are:

Kenny Kwok                           University of Western Australia

Tracy Kijewski-Correa        University of Notre Dame

Yukio Tamura                        Tokyo Polytechnic University

Robert Brown                        Memorial University, Newfoundland

Industrial support for VSimulators is provided by AKT II, Arup, Atkins, Buro Happold, Emirates DNEC Engineering Consultants, Flint&Neill (now COWI), Foster and Partners, Swallow Acoustics Consultants (now part of Thornton Tomasetti), Waterman Structures and WSP|PB.

VSimulators is affiliated to UKCRIC and will be a national research facility available to RCUK-funded researchers for research projects as well as to private industry at commercial rates.

Links to publicity in national and local media can be found here.

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Impact of wobbly bridges and sky-scrapers on human health to be tested in government-funded research centre

The impact of vibrations from very tall buildings and wobbly bridges and floors on people’s health and wellbeing is to be researched in a new £7.2 million government-funded national research facility.

Check out the rest of the story about the launch of VSimulators on the University of Exeter’s website

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_574555_en.html 

In the meantime, here is some other coverage of the story:

Wobbly skyscrapers may trigger motion-sickness and depression, warn experts (Source: The Telegraph)

Did you feel the earth move? (Source: The Plymouth Herald)

Exeter and Bath get £7.2m to find out if wobbling is bad for us (Source: Devon Live)

Do YOU work in a skyscraper? Wobbly high-rise buildings may trigger motion-sickness, insomnia and depression (Source: Daily Mail)

Wobbly skyscrapers may trigger motion-sickness and depression, warn experts (Source: MSN Health)
Are skyscrapers making you sick? A new £7 million study is trying to find out (Source: Architecture magazine)
Are tall buildings good for your health? (Source: About Manchester)
VR vibration simulators set up to study effects of working in a skyscraper (Source: Engineering & Technology)
Universities to set up lab to measure fear and nausea caused by tall buildings (Source: Global Construction Review) http://bit.ly/2nr89Rc

 

Launch of Novel Vibration Control System for Floor Structures

The result of many months’ work on an EPSRC funded project was revealed on 16th February at a launch event for a novel vibration control system. The event attracted directors, associates and senior engineers from major companies including WSP, Atkins, Foster and Partners and Arup. They witnessed the launch of a proof-of-product system, which was developed by Professor Paul Reynolds and Dr Emma Hudson to address the current gap between the proven academic successes of active vibration control for floor structures and the lack of adoption by industry to date.

The technology works in a similar way to that of popular noise-cancelling headphones: an accelerometer is used to measure the vibrations of the structure; the resulting signal is processed by a real-time computer and then an actuator generates the required force to cancel out the measured vibrations.

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This new product combines all these components into one standardised compact unit that can be more easily installed within structures. Crucially, the system has been developed with robustness and minimised cost as priorities, to complement the proven high performance of this technology. In this way, the system is significantly more commercially attractive to potential adopters, meaning that the benefits of enhanced vibration performance are now a step closer to being realised.

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A lunchtime seminar was organised at the Institute of Structural Engineers HQ in London to highlight the potential benefits of this new product to key industry contacts. A joint presentation by Paul Reynolds and Emma Hudson was followed by a live demonstration of the new system.

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