Why physical modelling has a bright future
With more than seventy years’ experience of building scaled models for everything from breakwaters to beaches, turbines to tsunamis, and pumping stations to fish passes, HR Wallingford are acknowledged as world leaders in physical modelling. Dr David Todd, explains why, in the age of the computer, physical modelling of coastal and offshore structures is still relevant and necessary.
HR Wallingford began life in 1947 as the UK government’s Hydraulics Research Station, with the specific aim of improving our understanding of the interaction between water and sediment. We were privatised in 1982, and today provide specialist expertise to companies and governments all over the world. A part of these services relates to physical modelling, and we have the largest and most versatile physical modelling facilities in Europe with over 14,000 m2 of laboratory facilities, including eight basins, five flumes and abundant space for custom-built stand-alone models.
Predictions of the downfall of physical modelling due to improvements in computer power have been made for several decades, and yet our modelling laboratories continue to operate at or near to full capacity. We have averaged twenty-eight modelling projects per year over the last ten years, with durations ranging from several weeks to many months, and projects often occupying more than one facility. What's more, three of our largest ever models have been constructed in the last two years alone. So why is physical modelling at HR Wallingford so enduringly popular despite the predictions?