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Wind Hazard and Infrastructure Performance Center (WHIP-C)

Florida International University

Texas Tech University

Last Reviewed: 06/26/2019

Center Mission and Rationale

Mission of the WHIP Center is to pursue precompetitive research to enhance resiliency of buildings and infrastructure to resist extreme winds of hurricanes, tornadoes, and other windstorms. The principal research themes are assessment of wind hazards, estimation of exposure and vulnerability of buildings and infrastructures, and improvement of community resilience.

Every year the United States is impacted by several wind hazards including hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms. As a result, buildings and infrastructure such as power, communication, transportation, and water systems suffer great damages causing fatalities and injuries and extensive property losses. According to Property Claim Services, U.S. insured catastrophe losses between 1997 and 2016 were over $421 billion, a total that translates to $21 billion in annual insured losses. Almost 80% of these insured losses are caused by windstorm events. The total loss to the country due to wind hazards is almost twice the insured losses. Future losses from windstorms are likely to increase because of the growing population in hazard-prone regions, aging infrastructure, and changing climate.

Unless focused research, development and implementation in resiliency in infrastructure is pursued, the property losses will continue to increase. Protecting homeowners, businesses, and communities from wind hazards involves stakeholders across many geographical boundaries and industry sectors. Therefore, the established NSF I/UCRC WHIP adopts a broad-based approach, and is aimed at serving members in the industries of insurance and construction.  The construction industry is defined broadly as the industry that designs, engineers, constructs, manages and maintains buildings and infrastructure.   

The insurance industry protects the assets of its policyholders by transferring risk from an individual or business to an insurance company. In addition to private insurers are the government’s natural catastrophe insurance programs which have filled gaps in the private insurance markets and helped to limit disaster relief payments. Since the price of property insurance is affected by the annual expected loss and the cost of diversifying the risk of catastrophic losses, one of the key objectives of an insurer is to set the premium to a proper level allowing companies to be profitable, competitive, and able to pay claims and expenses as they occur. Reducing damages to insured properties has a beneficial impact to the insurance industry.

Commercial construction includes commercial, and institutional buildings along with civil infrastructures such as transmission lines, telecommunication facilities, etc., while residential construction includes multi-family housing and single-family homes. The number of people involved in construction industry in 2016 was 8.6 million in the U.S., and had spending of about $1,200 billion. However, U.S. contractors, architects, and engineers invested less than 0.05 percent in R&D as a group, mainly because of intense price competition and few mechanisms to facilitate joint funding of research that will yield distinct benefits to the participating firms. The WHIP Center provides an avenue by which the construction industry (broadly speaking) can gain leverage of investment by NSF, expertise and facilities of academic institutions, and collaboration with other companies to enhance resiliency products in this competitive market.

Research program

WHIP-Center

Wind Hazard Assessment

Better estimation of wind hazard for a community or a location and understanding of wind speeds and turbulence in hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme wind events within the boundary layer are part of research agenda. Field measurements and statistical analyses are pursued to obtain results that help industry partners.

Vulnerability of Buildings and Infrastructure

Vulnerability is a function of wind hazard exposure and robustness of the building and infrastructure such as transmission lines. Development of fragility curves (damage probabilities) in different type of windstorms (e.g. tornado, hurricane, downburst) for a variety of buildings and infrastructure systems will assist in improving estimation of vulnerability of the built environment.

Community Resilience

Community resiliency is gained by providing robustness of buildings and infrastructure and improving ability to recover quickly from damage caused by windstorms. Innovative new building products and approaches to retrofit building and infrastructure systems can improve resiliency. Analytical methods and experimental testing are pursued to develop products to enhance resiliency.

Facilities and Laboratory

NATIONAL WIND INSTITUTE AT TTU

Reese Technology Center at TTU for field measurements and laboratory studies

  • 200-m tower for meteorological measurements
  • Ka-band mobile radars on trucks
  • Mobile StickNet for spatial field measurements
  • Tornado simulator (VorTECH)
  • Boundary layer wind tunnel
  • West Texas Mesonet
  • Debris Impact Facility (DIF)

 

INTERNATIONAL HURRICANE RESEARCH CENTER AT FIU

NSF NHERI Wall of Wind (WOW) Experimental Facility (EF) for full- and large-scale testing

  • Up to Category 5 Hurricane Wind simulations
  • Multi-Scale Testing (full-, large-, small-scale)
  • Destructive Testing (to predict progressive failures in buildings and infrastructure elements)
  • Wind-Driven Rain simulations (to study water intrusion)
  • Non-synoptic downburst wind flow facility Automated roughness system
  • Automated 3-axis traverse system
  • Three component particle-image velocimetry (PIV) system and other state of the art pressure and load monitoring equipment

Locations

Texas Tech University

1009 Canton Avenue

Lubbock, Texas, 79409-3155

United States

Florida International University

10555 West Flagler Street

Miami, Florida, 33174

United States