Edmonton councillor catches wind of computer tool to measure wind

A photo of 103 Avenue in Edmonton, facing west from 100 Street. Scott Johnston/ 630 CHED

If Mark Twain had ever taken a stroll down Edmonton’s 103 Avenue, that one-block stretch that links the Edmonton Tower to city hall, he would probably add Edmonton to San Francisco in his alleged quote about “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in…”

At least the windiest.

“I’ve joked it’s the windiest street in Edmonton, even on a calm day,” Councillor Ben Henderson said. “And the wind changes direction halfway down.”

It’s what has prompted him to pick up on a new tool that’s been uncovered through the work of Edmonton’s Winter Cities initiative. It studies wind and the effect of wind patterns created by buildings.

“It’s actually really cool. I’ve seen mock-ups of it,” Henderson said after making an inquiry at the final city council meeting before the summer recess.

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“It’s basically a computer simulation of what wind will do on a building, and even a number of buildings together, so you can begin to really understand what will happen in a way that we just haven’t been able to understand so far.”

103 Avenue has tall, flat towers on both the north and south sides of the road. Wind has wreaked havoc, snapping yearling trees on 100 Street in front of a side entrance to city hall.

Even glass panes in the pyramid roof were shattered with gravel blown off the top of the Main Street Tower on two different occasions in the early 2000s.

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“We have created no end of micro-climates and they’re not good ones with the way we’ve done tall buildings, or any kind of buildings, not just tall buildings,” Henderson said.

“We need to be able to understand that better to make sure we don’t create inhospitable spaces. This would be a really good tool to understand before you build something, what the problems are.

“We just need to stop doing that and this is a really good tool to understand before you start building things, what’s going to happen to make sure you don’t do it.”

Henderson said he had thought that after Winter Cities staff had let it be known this computer model existed, the city would have acted on it.

“It’s just sort of stalled, and that’s why I asked my question.”

No one from the city’s planning department responded to a request from Global News for more information.

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