Reducing wind damage is the focus of the partnership between top U.S. companies, FIU, Texas Tech and Florida Tech
With support from the National Science Foundation, FIU and Texas Tech University (TTU) are accelerating the application of wind hazard research to real-world problems through the collaborative creation of the Center for Wind Hazard and Infrastructure Performance (WHIP-C).
WHIP-C is supported by industry leaders such as Berkshire Hathaway, State Farm, USAA, risk modeler Verisk and roofing materials maker GAF. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is also a member.
Together, industry and university faculty members identify problems caused by wind storms, and industry members select and fund research proposals brought forward by faculty. Faculty and students then generate data and practical solutions for industry use.
“Through this partnership, companies gain access to state-of-the-art facilities and expertise in the wind engineering field,” said Ioannis Zisis, an associate professor at the College of Engineering and Computing and director of the FIU site at WHIP-C. “This collaboration allows us to advance academic knowledge while helping businesses in their research and development efforts.”
WHIP-C was established by the National Science Foundation’s Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers program, which seeks to accelerate bringing academic research results into a real-world application through partnerships. The Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) contributes to WHIP-C research as an affiliate member.
The universities focus on four research areas: identifying and categorizing the types of wind storms; assessing the vulnerability of buildings and infrastructure; improving community resilience to wind events; evaluating the societal impact caused by wind storms and how that impact is affected by climate change.
“The research results of this center go into practice fairly quickly,” says Kishor C. Mehta, Horn Professor of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering at TTU and WHIP-C Center Director. “This is important because most civil infrastructure projects and buildings are designed by codes and standards, which can take up to 10 or 15 years to be updated with new research findings. In the case of our center, as soon as we put results out, companies can use them.”
Research projects are conducted at FIU’s Wall of Wind — part of the Extreme Events Institute, which can simulate the force of a Category 5 hurricane, and Texas Tech’s VorTECH simulator at the National Wind Institute, which can replicate the effects of a powerful tornado in the field.
FIU and Texas Tech are academic leaders in researching damage caused by wind. Florida Tech’s involvement in the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model is key to research for the insurance and reinsurance sectors.
In one example of a current WHIP-C study, researchers investigate roof shingles and how they interact with powerful winds at full scale. Asphalt shingles are the most common material used for residential roofs in the United States, and the goal of the research is to improve how roofs are built and installed.
“As the largest insurer of homes in the U.S., State Farm sees how wind damage affects many families every year,” said Eric Haefli, a senior technology researcher at State Farm. “Through our participation in WHIP-C, we hope to find ways to reduce the negative impacts of wind and the damage it can cause to communities. WHIP-C enables us to collaborate with three prominent wind engineering universities and work with world-renowned researchers and students to find answers. Reducing wind losses will benefit our customers and all consumers.”