Wind tunnel testing the world’s first circular skyscraper

CPP Wind > Portfolio > Wind tunnel testing the world’s first circular skyscraper

The Aldar headquarters building, located at Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi, is one of the most recognizable structures on earth. Resembling an upright biconvex lens, the Aldar headquarters relies upon a diagonal grid, or diagrid, to transfer the weight of the world’s first circular skyscraper to its foundation. That same frame also has to react to thunderstorms, sandstorms, earthquakes, and anything else the Gulf region’s harsh climate throws at it. Principal structural engineering consultants Arup Gulf Ltd. looked to CPP for help verifying that the structure would be able to weather the storm.

Led by Dr. Roy Denoon, CPP’s wind engineers developed a 1:400 scale model of the Aldar headquarters building and outfitted it with nearly 350 pressure taps to measure surface wind pressures in the wind tunnel. By measuring pressures at each of these taps, our engineers determined just how strong the building’s cladding needed to be to survive the worst storms expected at the site. By examining the overall pressure patterns, and combining these with the structural characteristics of the building, we were able to predict the overall wind loads at the base that would be transferred to the foundations.

We also used the results of the wind tunnel tests to determine how much the building would sway in strong winds, and whether these motions could lead to occupant discomfort. We were happy to find that the predicted motions were well within international guidelines for occupant comfort in tall buildings.

In the end, the proposed diagrid system, as designed, proved to be more than adequate, and the project was a resounding success that met with worldwide acclaim. Project Director Dr. Roy Denoon even appeared on the National Geographic documentary television series MegaStructures to explain how CPP’s wind tunnel tests helped the project’s engineers verify that the design could handle the anticipated wind loads.


The Aldar headquarters building has received a number of prestigious international awards, including

  • Best Futuristic Design, The Building Exchange Conference 2008
  • Best Office Development, Arabian Property Awards 2011
  • Best Steel Project, Tekla Middle East BIM Awards 2009
  • Highly Commended, Building and Structures Category, Engineers Australia NSW Engineering Excellence Awards 2010

We were also pleased to lend our wind tunnel model of the Aldar headquarters building to Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum where it was on display for a year as part of an exhibition of engineering excellence.

CPP enjoys a long legacy of delivering critical recommendations for some of the world’s most iconic buildings, and we’re pleased to have played a role in the development of Aldar’s headquarters.

Project Team

CPP Project Director:
Dr. Roy Denoon

Structural Engineer:
ARUP Gulf Ltd.

MZ Architects

Project Details

MZ Architects