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Homebuilding Smackdown: Science vs. Hurricane

January 06, 2018

The top reason to study engineering in college: Wall of Wind. Yay Science!

Florida International University's fifteen-foot-tall Wall of Wind (WOW) is used to test structures and building materials against hurricane-force winds—such as those that pummeled Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico in 2017.

"When we have 12 of them running at top speed, we have 8,400 horsepower."

—Arindam Chowdhury, Civil Engineer, Florida International University

Recommendations from the lab are sent to building code officials, and many of them are now part of the Florida building code.

Product manufacturers can also test their products under hurricane conditions to assure performance. The product testing capability helps manufacturers, like tile roofing manufacturers, make sure their assemblies can withstand higher winds.

Using polyurethane foam to seal the bottom edge of tile at the eaves is one solution tested against the WOW (it worked).

Another test was of PV panels in a rack, on a roof. More PV panels on roofs and higher wind speeds are both inevitable, so it is good to see the rack and panels make it smoothly through the WOW test.

—This video is from the National Science Foundation and the research was funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009

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