Performance-Based Wind Design
Designing Smarter Structures
Viral Patel

In traditional structural engineering design practice, buildings are designed to safely withstand wind and other natural forces. Wind is generally idealized as a static load rather than the dynamic and variable phenomenon that it actually is. This idealization greatly simplifies wind design, but also necessarily builds in conservatism and hence, extra building costs. Through analytical research and adaptation of the principles of performance-based design, Walter P Moore is pioneering a better way to design buildings for wind that will eventually make buildings safer, smarter, and less costly.

Performance-based design (PBD) is “an engineering approach that is based on (1) specific performance objectives and safety goals of building occupants, owners, and the public, (2) probabilistic or deterministic evaluation of hazards, and (3) quantitative evaluation of design alternatives against performance objectives; but does not prescribe specific technical solutions.” PBD was originally developed to help engineers design buildings to achieve predictable levels of structural performance during earthquakes of varying magnitude, and its methods are commonly used in the seismic design of structures.

By contrast, performance-based design principles have not been used in the design of buildings for wind forces due to a lack of research, lack of understanding of building wind response beyond the first significant yield point, and the relatively complex computational effort required to implement PBD.

As a firm, we’ve found that PBD offers an attractive approach to optimize the design of buildings for wind forces, improving their safety and performance while simultaneously reducing construction costs. Our research and development team has conducted extensive applied research in collaboration with leading wind consultants to demonstrate the power of this approach to improve building outcomes.

Putting performance-based wind design into practice has yielded positive results, such as making buildings safer and more economical. We recently applied a PBD design approach to the lateral analysis of a refurbished building in downtown Houston, significantly reducing the costs to upgrade the 1960s-era building while still allowing it to achieve LEED® Platinum certification. In the wake of that success, we have defined and published our industry’s first practical framework for performance-based design for wind.

As PBD for wind design generates significant interest among the building community and wind researchers, I truly believe that over the next 15 years, the engineering community will fully embrace performance-based wind design, elevating it as the industry-standard design approach for buildings.

Viral Patel / CE, PE, SE, NCEES
Viral is a Senior Principal with Walter P Moore’s Structures group in Austin.