Designations honour wind tunnel’s significance

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Western’s Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory is considered the birthplace of modern wind engineering. On Thursday, the Western community gathered as the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering designated the tunnel a National Historic Site and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recognized the facility as an International Historic Landmark.

To date, the ASCE has branded more than 200 projects worldwide with the designation of International Historic Landmark, recognizing historically significant local, national, and international civil engineering projects, structures and sites.


  • Conceived and founded by Civil Engineering professor Alan G. Davenport, the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory (BLWT) was designed by Davenport and Engineering professor Jim W. Stewart. Construction began in the spring of 1965, with an opening ceremony on Nov. 25, 1965;
  • BLWT1 is 100 feet (30 m) long, 8 feet (2.4 m) wide and has an adjustable roof to achieve a height between 5.5-7.5 feet (1.7-2.3 m). A large fan generates wind with a maximum speed of 55 mph (88 km/h);
  • First project completed, in 1966, was the Santa Fe Tower.
  • BLWT2, opened in May 1984, is a closed-circuit wind tunnel with a maximum wind speed of 100 feet/second (110 km/h). It includes a wind/wave tank of 170 feet (52 m) in length that can be converted to a dry testing section;
  • The boundary layer wind tunnels are so named because the layer of wind closest to Earth’s atmosphere (approximately the first 1,000 metres) is known as the boundary layer;
  • Nearly 200 students have completed graduate work at the lab; and
  • Western’s Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory has been the design inspiration for many wind tunnels in Canada and around the world.
  • Members have worked on about 2,000 projects to date, including the CN Tower in Toronto, Willis (formerly the Sears) Tower in Chicago, Confederation Bridge in Prince Edward Island; most structures at Canary Wharf in London, England; Emirates Tower in Dubai; Juventus Stadium; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; One London Place; and the Strait of Messina Bridge in Italy.