Tom Reynolds is a Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. He has an MEng in engineering science from the University of Oxford and a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Bath. He has worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bath, researching dynamics of multi-storey timber buildings, and in the interdisciplinary Natural Material Innovation group at the University of Cambridge. He worked for four years in civil and structural engineering design consultancy with WYG and AKT (now AKTII), and is a chartered member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Tom's research aims to change the way structural engineers work. Engineers currently learn very little about the eventual performance of buildings they have designed, and so get little opportunity to incorporate that experience into future designs. Sensor technology exists to change this, since relatively low-cost sensors can be incorporated into buildings to provide data on the in-situ behaviour of the structure. The obstacle to creating this feedback is to turn this data into the information required by designers. Focusing on measurement of vibration due to wind and the movement of people, he has carried out in-situ vibration measurements on many buildings and structures over the past five years, ranging from timber attic frames to the stage for the London Olympic opening ceremony.
He has worked with structural engineers to learn from those in-situ measurements, to compare them with the results of their analysis, and to modify future designs on that basis. Particularly valuable information comes from measurements which show the change of structural properties over time, for example as the bare structural frame is fitted out and eventually becomes a functional building. This can show which secondary elements in the structure or environmental conditions may cause the behaviour to deviate from predictions. What is required to make this a mainstream way of working is to develop methods which can efficiently process and visualise the results of long-term monitoring, illuminating the change in properties with time.