Hurricane simulator at WMU helps researchers test the strength of building materials


KALAMAZOO, Michigan – It’s been about two weeks since Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, leaving a source of destruction in its wake.

In western Michigan, researchers are testing building materials to withstand hurricane-force winds.

The “dynamic wind uplift table” simulates hurricane force pressures that researchers at Western Michigan University (WMU) use to test the durability of roofing materials.

Their hope is to use the data to create better building codes that will withstand hurricanes.

“What it does is simulate the pressures associated with hurricanes and tornadoes,” said Brian Montgomery, director of the Bronco Construction Research Center at WMU.

The machine measures 12 by 24 feet. It pushes air at different pressures on the roofing materials to simulate a severe windstorm.

“We see the same damage, at the same time of year, in the same place, and so the current model is to build, destroy and rebuild. That is why our motto is to build, support and survive,” said Montgomery.

Researchers don’t just test products to make them pass or fail, but rather compile data to determine how products can be more resilient.

“This table can apply a dynamic load, so it takes into account the dynamic effects from uplift. We think that factor will give the actual behavior and simulate, you know, the overall behavior of the roof system,” said Bronco Construction of WMU. . Research Center Principal Research Associate Bilal Alhawamdeh.

A local company is already working on improving its products while trying to be sustainable.

“We’re going to do some testing here on how [much] best, it can withstand seismic wind uplift conditions literally using trash on a board. These boards can be recycled very easily after use, ”said Thomas Kelly, 2001 Company Owner Thomas Kelly.

“It is our belief that through research and innovative designs, we can increase the resilience or survivability of some of these structures that are found in these geographically prone areas,” said Montgomery.

The “dynamic wind uplift table” is the only one in academia in North America.

Although researchers at WMU are only testing roofing materials at this time, they hope to test coating materials in the future.

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