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How VR will find out if skyscrapers are making us sick

A marvel in engineering and astounding to look at - skyscrapers are odes to human ingenuity but they might actually be making us sick.



Despite all the technological advancements there is one issue that they haven’t been able to solve is sway - wind continues to play a role in building movement. You might think that it doesn’t matter but that subtle motion could be making inhabitants sick, sleepless, and depressed.

The Universities of Exeter and Bath will put this theory to the test with the help of a government-funded joint initiative, which will examine the connection between building movement and adverse experiences such as sickness, tiredness, bad concentration, and a lack of motivation.

The study will run over the next five years and a group of engineers, medical professionals, physiologists, and psychologists will work together to build a first-of-its kind virtual simulator that will measure the impact of different levels of vibration on people. They will not only study this effect in tall buildings, but also stadiums and concert venues. 

“Our recent field studies have shown that wind-induced building motion can cause sopite syndrome (a motion-related neurological disorder) or early onset motion sickness,” said Professor Kenny Kwok of the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

“This new facility will be utilized to advance our understanding of the prevalence of sopite syndrome and its adverse effects on building occupants, and guide the formulation of acceptability criteria for building motion to address its adverse effects on occupant wellbeing and work performance.”

Previous studies have linked small building sway to motion sickness and anxiety, in a phenomenon called “sick building syndrome.”


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