Investigating Hail and Other Natural Hazards through Laboratory and Field Research

Tanya M. Brown, Ph.D., Ian M. Giammanco, Ph.D.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)

08 September 2015, 1:30 PM

National Weather Center, Room 1350
120 David L. Boren Blvd.
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is a non-profit organization supported by the property insurance industry to conduct scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss. IBHS accomplishes this mission through laboratory research; field studies and closed claims analyses; by working in the public policy and building code sectors; and by conducting outreach to help educate home and business owners about effective mitigation practices.
In 2010, IBHS constructed a state-of-the-art, multi-hazard applied research facility in Richburg, South Carolina. The core of the IBHS Research Center is an open-jet wind tunnel large enough to subject full-scale, one- or two-story residential and commercial buildings to a variety of natural perils. Work at the IBHS Research Center focuses on the hazards of wind, wind-driven rain, hail, and wildfire, and how these hazards affect building performance. An overview of the facility and capabilities will be provided.
Despite few injuries and fatalities, hail is of particular interest to the insurance industry because of large insured losses that average more than $850 million annually, which exceed those of every other country in the world (Changnon et al. 2009). IBHS is undertaking a major multi-faceted research effort to study hailstorms with the goal of reducing associated property losses. Current research programs are evaluating impact testing standards for roofing products and are focused on developing improvements to the test standards if warranted. Impact testing research is focused on the development of hail damage metrics for roofing materials based on observations of impacts from lab-created hailstones in a range of sizes, density, and hardness derived from data that have been collected from four years of hailstone characteristics field research. With the addition of a fleet of mobile impact disdrometers, impact kinetic energies and concentrations are also being incorporated into impact testing. These field data are also being incorporated into dual-polarimetric radar hail detection and characterization research by Dr. Matthew Kumjian at Penn State University. Additional research is being conducted on how natural weathering and aging affects potential damage from hailstorms, and the cost-benefit of using enhanced building materials for hailstorm mitigation. An overview of these programs, along with summary data and findings will be presented.
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