Giant Wind Tunnel Tests Full-Size HousesOctober 19, 2010 - 4:00 PM | by: Jonathan Serrie
A wind tunnel big enough to hold a small neighborhood unleashed hurricane force winds — all in the name of safety.
The 21 thousand square-foot test chamber is part of the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Research Center, which celebrated its official grand opening today.
The test facility, located in rural Chester County, South Carolina, is funded by the insurance industry and can simulate hailstorms, wildfires and category 4 hurricanes.
This afternoon, researchers bombarded a pair of two-story houses with water cannons and hurricane force winds.
One house was built using conventional construction standards applied to most homes in the Midwestern US. The other house was built using storm-resistant materials and methods, such as hurricane straps — which strengthen the connections between roofs, walls and foundations.
The fortified house survived multiple wind tunnel tests with minimal damage. But the conventional home quickly started to lose shingles and siding. With its exterior breached, a 92 mile per hour gust ripped the conventional house off its foundation, scattering debris hundreds of feet across a field behind the wind tunnel’s huge exhaust opening.
This was just a sampling of the research center’s full capabilities.
With 105 fans, each six feet in diameter, the test chamber can produce winds up to 140 miles per hour. Water cannons can simulate rain or hail. And researchers can add burning embers to the wind tunnel to simulate the effects of wildfires.
IBHS officials say the research conducted in this wind tunnel will eventually lead to new ways of building safer homes and businesses.