How do you determine how well houses will withstand catastrophic weather? If you're the insurance industry, you spend $US40 million on a room that can simulate Category 3 cyclones. Then you huff and puff and you blow those suckers down.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety, a group funded by the insurance industry, spent $US40 million creating its new state of the art disaster lab in rural South Carolina, a facility that will allow them to test how various construction practices and materials hold up to catastrophic weather.
To recreate tornadoes and cyclones, the 214sqm lab utilises 105 gigantic fans (capable of blowing nearly 160km/h gusts) and a 2.8 million litre watertank to supply the rain. The simulated hurricanes can cost up to $US100,000 each, but, as the WSJ explains, its a worthwhile investment for insurers:
IBHS's new facility will give insurers the ability to carefully videotape what happens as powerful winds blow over structures. In the past, researchers largely relied on wind data from universities or computer simulations and rummaged through damage zones or photographed them from helicopters.
It is "the last link in a long chain of progress in hurricane loss prevention," said Dr. Louis Gritzo, manager of research for FM Global, a larger insurer and one of IBHS's members. Other insurers involved in the research facility include State Farm, Nationwide and AllState.
The above video shows two similarly constructed houses, one of them with $US5000 worth of additional structural improvements. I'll leave it to you to figure out which one that is. [PopSci]
Music: Paganini's "G Minor, Vivace"