Redefined weekly news that will ignite your attention

Cyclone Resilience: Australia’s Wind Engineering Legacy

Cyclone Resilience: Australia’s Wind Engineering Legacy
Image courtesy of

Pioneers of Wind Engineering

Cyclone Tracy and Cyclone Althea, two catastrophic events from the 1970s, served as stark reminders of nature’s fury. Yet, these disasters also sparked a revolution in building standards, leading to the establishment of James Cook University’s (JCU) Cyclone Testing Station in 1977.

This groundbreaking initiative continues to spearhead research and education in wind engineering for low-rise buildings, with JCU hosting the Australian Wind Engineering Society’s 22nd workshop this year to mark 50 years since Cyclone Tracy’s devastation.

Key Figures and Their Contributions

JCU’s Cyclone Testing Station has been pivotal in transforming how Australia approaches building resilience. Professor George Walker’s seminal report on Cyclone Tracy’s damage influenced nationwide changes in construction practices.

Adjunct Associate Professor Geoff Boughton and Chief Engineer Dr David Henderson, both long-serving members, continue this legacy. They emphasise the importance of ongoing research and collaboration in enhancing building safety against severe wind events.

Lessons from Recent Cyclones

Recent studies by the Cyclone Testing Station highlight significant challenges and opportunities. Cyclone Ilsa in 2023 exposed vulnerabilities in remote communities’ reliance on solar power.

Of 21 systems, only one remained operational post-cyclone, underscoring the urgent need for resilient solar installations. This has accelerated research on the wind loads affecting rooftops with solar panels, initiated after Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

Dr Boughton stresses that remote communities need strong, accessible buildings for refuge during cyclones. Meanwhile, Dr Henderson’s work focuses on assessing existing buildings’ suitability as cyclone refuges, crucial for safety in a warming climate.

The Importance of Collaboration

The Cyclone Testing Station’s work is bolstered by partnerships with Geoscience Australia and the Insurance Council of Australia.

Workshops like the current one enable experts to share insights and develop strategies to make Australia more resilient to wind events, ultimately reducing the impact of extreme weather.

The station’s dedication to learning from every cyclone and improving building standards has already resulted in most buildings remaining structurally sound during recent wind events. However, the journey towards total resilience continues.