The health and well-being of people who work in skyscrapers are being examined as part of a new virtual reality research project.
VSimulators recreate the impact of the vibrations that are experienced when working in a multi-storey office block, and form part of a joint investigation by researchers at the universities of Bath and Exeter.
Impact of vibration not understood
Alex Pavic, professor of vibration engineering at the University of Exeter, said: “More and more people are living and working in high-rises and office blocks but the true impact of vibrations on them is currently very poorly understood and can differ depending on whether an environment is quiet or noisy, the time of the day and even whether people are moving, standing, running or walking.
“Humans spend 90% of their lives in buildings that vibrate non-stop, but there is still very little reliable information about the effect of structural vibration.”
The five-year study will receive £2.45 million of university funding and a further £4.8 million will be injected by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create the VSimulators.
The research teams – which include engineers, medics, physiologists and psychologists – will use the vibration simulators to assess the effects of working in skyscrapers that sway slightly on windy days.
Possible impacts could include low mood among employees, a lack of concentration or motivation, as well as different forms of motion sickness.
The VSimulators will also emulate the temperature, humidity, noise, scents and air quality of buildings.
The vibration simulators can also re-enact what it’s like to walk across a wobbly bridge or to dance in a crowded stadium.
Dr Antony Darby, head of civil engineering at the University of Bath, said: “Just like sea sickness, our propensity to motion induced discomfort is situation and environment dependent.
“For example, people at a concert in a grandstand will accept a completely different level of vibration than those in a hospital operating theatre.
“We now have the ability to simulate not only the structural motion, but the surroundings, temperature, noise, air quality, even smell, all of which contribute to our experience of, and tolerance to, building motion.”
Source: University of Bath