Boundary layer wind tunnel tests of outdoor airflow field around urban buildings: A review of methods and status

Yi Zhao, Ruibin Li, Lu Feng, Yan Wu, Jianlei Niu, Naiping Gao

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Outdoor airflow fields have received increasing attention in the building aerodynamics community in virtue of the airflow distributions around buildings are closely related to issues such as thermal comfort, building ventilation, and pollutant dispersion. Field observations, wind tunnel tests and numerical simulations are the three prime investigation methods. Among them, wind tunnel tests can realize the quantitative studies of wind speed, direction and temperature in a human-controlled environment. Thereupon, this method has been widely used in the studies of urban microclimate. The focus of this paper is on the airflow distributions around buildings obtained through wind tunnel tests, and such studies are mostly conducted in boundary layer wind tunnels with long test section. First, this paper reviews current techniques for boundary layer wind tunnel tests of airflow distributions in urban outdoor environments, and distinguishes the numbers of dominant similarity characteristic for scaled-down models. Then, the advantages, limitations and applications of existing wind tunnel measurement instruments are compared. Finally, the characteristics of airflow fields around buildings in three typical configurations from previous studies (i.e. isolated building, street canyon, and building complexes) are elucidated, and the results are discussed. This review accentuates that it is difficult to ensure a comfortable environment around buildings only through design experience. Therefore, the proposed building models should be carefully assessed in combination with wind tunnel tests at the design stage. In addition, it is important to obtain wind tunnel test data for buildings with thermal effects by matching appropriate similarity criteria, and the importance of laying out the underlying surfaces during the test is also emphasized. This review concludes with a summary of challenging issues intended to provide reference for future studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112717
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Airflow pattern
  • Building complexes
  • Isolated building
  • Street canyon
  • Wind tunnel test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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