The demo of the two commercial structures was housed in the IBHS 21,000-square-foot testing facility, which is able to create up to 130 mph winds via 105 fans.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) is holding a full-scale commercial building hurricane test at its Chester County, S.C.-based Research Center today but DWM magazine got a first look Monday afternoon during a guided tour of the testing facility. According to IBHS media relations manager, Joseph King, two 30- by 20-square-foot building structures that mimic real-life commercial stores will be placed directly next to one another on a rotating slab in the testing facility at the center. Then comes the fun part.

King says one building structure is reinforced at critical points in the storefront and on the roll-up garage doors in back, the other represents “conventional construction standards used in the U.S.”

“IBHS researchers will test each structure – rotating them to test both back and front – under hurricane-force winds,” he says. “Researchers expect numerous building system failures to occur to the conventionally built structure. The goal of this test is to demonstrate the role that stronger construction plays and the potential financial benefits that IBHS research offers both insurers and business policyholders via reduced property insurance losses.”

Among the building features to be tested are: “wind stops on roll-up doors, masonry walls with vertical steel reinforcement, roof-top equipment mechanically anchored to the roof structure, roof structures anchored to walls; and other features.”

During DWM’s walkthrough of the testing facility conducted by IBHS vice president of research, Anne Cope, she said that the two commercial structures have roofing assemblies, which include a roof cover, roof deck and perimeter flashing and insulation.

“The difference between the two structures is that on the stronger building, these items were installed using FM Global Standards, while this was not the case for the common practice building,” she said.

Some building differences include the wind stops that have been strategically placed on both sides of the FM Global standards roll-up door and the way steel connects within the building envelope at the storefront. Pressure sensors will be placed at certain points on the doors and a monitoring device that measures the doors’ deflection also will be added. Additionally, the differences in the way equipment is mounted to the roof and reinforced flashing will be featured during testing.

Upon entering the 21,000-square-foot testing facility that is roughly the span of four NBA courts, Cope said the founders of the research center were able to establish the not-for-profit organization in harsh economic conditions “because they knew investing in the research for resilience was going to pay back several times – not just for insurance companies but for all of us as well. Public funds, private funds, everyone is affected by disasters and by putting those dollars into research to make things stronger and more able to recover is going to be better in the long run.”

Since the founders of the center began their capital campaign for start-up funding in 2008 and the facility’s opening in 2010, researchers at the site have determined that “components used to make the resilient building stronger and safer cost less than 5 percent of the total cost of the entire structure,” according to IBHS researchers.

“It’s exciting to get these images that show why buildings are stronger and how you can make them stronger because without that image … it just doesn’t strike you – it doesn’t hit home,” Cope said. “It was 30 years ago we started having these kinds of conversations about safety belts in cars and it was really the compelling video showing why safety belts are needed that made people think ‘we have to have this, it is important.’”

Stay tuned to for more coverage of the IBHS full-scale hurricane test.

by Erica Terrini,



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