With an Eye Toward Hurricane Season, Interior Damage Research Underway at Florida Tech

When a high-rise building sustains damage from a hurricane, the effects may go beyond the visible damage. An example came in September 2004, when Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne moved over Satellite Beach and breached of windows and sliders at the Ramada Inn Oceanfront Resort. Not necessary the picture of massive damage. But the wind and rain entering through these defects was so extensive that the building had to be demolished.

A new research grant awarded to Florida Tech from the Wind Hazard and Infrastructure Performance Center (WHIP-C) is taking a close look at this type of interior damage.

Florida Tech is affiliated with the WHIP-C, an Industry University Cooperative Research Center jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and industry members with the goal of enhancing resiliency of buildings and infrastructure to resist extreme winds from hurricanes, tornadoes and other windstorms.

The grant, “Estimation of Interior Damage Due to Wind-Driven Rain Ingress into Mid/High-Rise Buildings,” led by mechanical and civil engineering professor Jean-Paul Pinelli, uses a physics-based model to examine what happens to the interior of a building once wind-driven rain enters through defects or breaches of an opening such as a window, external door or balcony glass slider.

The goal is to provide information for building manufacturers who seek to make stronger products, risk-model companies who want to improve their risk prediction catastrophe models, and insurance and re-insurance companies who want to better understand their risk.

“We as engineers are very good at modeling the exterior damage, such as to the windows and structure, but there is very little done in terms of modeling the interior damage,” Pinelli said. “You could have a building without much external damage but completely trashed inside due to wind-driven water ingress.”

In a first stage, researchers are developing the methodology, which incorporates the results of tests using the Wall of Wind facility at Florida International University, followed by the data’s insertion into risk models.

This interior damage research aligns with Florida Tech’s commitment to research on hurricane risk mitigation, including its participation in the development of the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model (FPHLM). This hurricane catastrophe model was developed by a multi-disciplinary team from several institutions in Florida, which includes meteorologists, wind and structural engineers, statisticians, actuaries and computer scientists. The model consists of three major components: wind hazard, vulnerability and actuarial. Pinelli’s team led the development of the vulnerabilities for building, appurtenant structures, contents and additional living expenses, in collaboration with the University of Florida. The FPHLM was released in 2007.

“We have the special advantage and satisfaction that our model is certified by the state and used by the industry,” Pinelli said.


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