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Giant Lab Replicates Category 3 Hurricanes

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the indoor-skydiving dept.

Earth 97

Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that a new $40 million research center built by the Institute for Business & Home Safety in Richburg, SC features a massive test chamber as tall as a six-story building that can hold nine 2,300-square-foot homes on a turntable where they can be subjected to tornado-strength winds generated by 105 giant fans to simulate a Category 3 hurricane. The goal is to improve building codes and maintenance practices in disaster-prone regions even though each large hurricane simulation costs about $100,000. The new IBHS lab will be the first to replicate hurricanes with winds channeling water through homes and ripping off roofs, doors and windows. The new facility will give insurers the ability to carefully videotape what happens as powerful winds blow over structures instead of relying on wind data from universities or computer simulations. The center will also be used to test commercial buildings, agriculture structures, tractor-trailers, wind turbines, and airplanes."

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97 comments

Tornado Strength? (2, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984216)

Tornado Strength? I think that's rather more than the Category 3 hurricane!

Re:Tornado Strength? (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984240)

It does seem a very odd description, more likely to have crawled out of somebody's imagination than the numbers; but my understanding is that wind speeds vary a great deal under tornado conditions, which means that it is probably accurate, albeit in a way that is either irrelevant or actively misleading.

The actual cone of the tornado is extremely fast, quite powerful, and is where all the crazy stuff happens(large objects being lifted, spare I-beams getting shoved neatly through trees, etc.) Surrounding that is an area of air disturbance, with strength decreasing as you get further out.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984342)

I was in a hurricane in the early '70s, and in a tornado in 2006. A category 1 tornado is a gentle breeze compared to an F2 tornado. I journaled about it here. [slashdot.org]

Re:Tornado Strength? (3, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984554)

"A category 1 tornado is a gentle breeze compared to an F2 tornado. I journaled about it here."

I think you meant

"A category 1 hurricane is a gentle breeze compared to an F2 tornado. I journaled about it here."

And I agree. One of my co-workers in Scotland was commenting that they had a force 7 gale going there. I looked it up. 31-38 mph winds. We have a word for that in Kansas:

Spring.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984626)

And I agree. One of my co-workers in Scotland was commenting that they had a force 7 gale going there. I looked it up. 31-38 mph winds. We have a word for that in Kansas:

We have a word for that here where I live near The Geysers; we live in a structure which is known commonly wherever it occurs as "the mouth of the dragon". 31-38 mph winds means that it's the afternoon.

Re:Tornado Strength? (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985014)

And I agree. One of my co-workers in Scotland was commenting that they had a force 7 gale going there. I looked it up. 31-38 mph winds. We have a word for that in Kansas: Spring.

A gale is really just the step after breeze (force 6 is strong breeze), you go through all the gale levels (7-9) then all the storm levels (10-12) before you get to a hurricane. Not sure where he's from in Scotland for a gale to be all that special, they should be getting roughly the same weather as us here in Norway over the North Sea and it's not that uncommon.

Even though storms have the full force of the Atlantic to build on, the strongest hurricane we've measured here in Norway was in 1992 and it was only a class 2, most years go without a single hurricane of any category. Gale is a windy day, storms are the only kind of storm and hurricanes are on TV. Same with tornadoes, very rare.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987900)

"A category 1 tornado is a gentle breeze compared to an F2 tornado. I journaled about it here."

I think you meant

"A category 1 hurricane is a gentle breeze compared to an F2 tornado. I journaled about it here."

And I agree. One of my co-workers in Scotland was commenting that they had a force 7 gale going there. I looked it up. 31-38 mph winds. We have a word for that in Kansas:

Spring.

A semi-calm spring day. Winds in the 40s without an accompanying storm isn't rare. Straight 70+ mph winds during a storm is very common. I'll never get used to that (neighboring you in Nebraska, recently moved here).

Re:Tornado Strength? (2, Insightful)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984504)

This will be used to refine vulnerability functions for modeling. The buildings can't/won't be built to withstand the forces, but they can reduce the insurers uncertainty about how much damage will be caused, and therefore how much to charge for an insurance policy.

Re:Tornado Strength? (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984742)

I'd suspect that it is a mixture of things. Obviously, insurers want to refine their models so that absolutely everyone is paying their exact actuarial cost + profit; but they also have an interest in the safety of their clients in less severe circumstances. If there are cheap; but not necessarily obvious, things that can be done to decrease costs in more minor circumstances, it is mutually beneficial for insurance companies to offer an incentive of part of their expected savings to their clients. The insurance company makes money; because they don't pass on all the savings brought about by the modification. The customer wins because they get some of the savings and they might avoid the hassle of having their house damaged(even with 100% insurance cover, major water damage/destruction is a huge pain in the ass).

For any class of insurance where there is a continuum of events with various degrees of badness and avoidability, insurers are unlikely to lose much business by assisting their clients in being safer(ie: getting and using a gym membership will make me healthier; but I can't drop my health insurance because if I get cancer, I'd be totally fucked). However, they can often save money, by reducing claims paid for more minor issues, by assisting their clients with those more minor risks.

In this case, for example, most people really can't afford to lose their house and most of the stuff inside it. It would just be catastrophic. So, unless they are very poor, or live in a flood/fire zone where some federal "emergency" welfare-for-the-wealthy program rebuilds million+ houses each time they get wiped out, they will be carrying insurance on their homes. If there are simple things that can be done to make homes less vulnerable to common events(ie. low category storms, fires caused by lousy wiring) it is very much in the insurer's interest to encourage policyholders to make changes that ameliorate those risks, while still keeping them on the policy rolls with terrifying predictions of category 5 storms and catastrophic house fires.

If it turns out, for example, that(as in TFA's video) a building becomes much more vulnerable once its door blows open, that suggests a variety of retrofits in the "few hundred in materials and labor" category that could easily save tens of thousands in the event of a modest storm. Insurers would love to know about stuff like that, so they can offer you some percentage of their expected savings to have that done. Exactly the same way that health insurers commonly subsidize gym memberships and healthy eating tips and stuff. They know that you aren't leaving; because that 500k cancer could hit at any time; but they know that both of you will be better off if your fat ass doesn't end up with type II diabetes.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34042458)

Do you work for FM Global? That's what they preach for a living; it's true, and a fair point, and most builders don't have the correct incentives to build homes and buildings with risk in mind. Once it's sold, developers get to pocket profits.

I'd actually be more interested in what this does to regulatory requirements for buildings across the country.

Re:Tornado Strength? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984552)

Category 3 Hurricanes. Tornado *strength*, but the intent is to simulate the conditions of a hurricane.

Re:Tornado Strength? (5, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984310)

Category 3 hurricane is Winds (1 min sustained winds): 111-130 mph [noaa.gov]
Category F2 tornado is Significant Tornado: 112 - 157 mph [datarecovery.com]

The hurricane scale goes higher - a level F3 tornado (158 - 206 mph) would be a category 5 hurricane (>155 mph) and there's no match for a F4 or F5 tornado. And thank you very much for that...

Re:Tornado Strength? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984456)

its not that often that you read through a series of /. posts and all of them seemingly indented to be both informative and respectful.

Re:Tornado Strength? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984594)

Hurricanes bring along the storm surge, so add massive flooding into it's effects. A single hurricane will do more damage then multiple tornados due to it's area of effect.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985848)

Not to mention that, depending on where they make landfall, hurricanes often fire up occasional tornadoes. I've seen this happen in Florida, for example. Talk about getting hit from every possible angle.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33988016)

Category 3 hurricane is Winds (1 min sustained winds): 111-130 mph [noaa.gov] Category F2 tornado is Significant Tornado: 112 - 157 mph [datarecovery.com]

The hurricane scale goes higher - a level F3 tornado (158 - 206 mph) would be a category 5 hurricane (>155 mph) and there's no match for a F4 or F5 tornado. And thank you very much for that...

It should be noted that the scale used now is the Enhanced Fujita (EF), not the Fujita scale (F). The numbers change a little with that.

EF2: 113-135MPH

EF3: 136-165MPH

Information on the new scale here. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Tornado Strength? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33991226)

Jupiter laughs at your puny F5 tornado!

Re:Tornado Strength? (5, Interesting)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984318)

Yeah, generally you don't even try to build to withstand a direct hit from a tornado, it'd just be way too expensive. The odds of any particular building getting smacked by a tornado are fairly small, and even a big tornado affects a much smaller area than your average landfall hurricane.

Designing to survive hurricane force winds is much more feasible, and it's cool to watch some actual experimentation. Note from the video, that right before the house on the left collapses, the front door is pushed open. Once the wind gets into the house, it needs to go somewhere, and it basically lifts the house up allowing it to fall over. You have to bolt the whole house together vertically, from the foundation all the way up to the rafters.

Re:Tornado Strength? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984414)

Or, or, hear me out, instead of making houses of popsicle sticks and plaster of paris like you americans do, make houses out of real building materials like the rest of the world does. You know, iron rebar, concrete, bricks, cement blocks, etc.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984444)

Reinforced concrete and cement buildings fall apart all the time due to hurricane force winds+storm surge.

Wood falls apart more easily, but we don't need to build to withstand european windstorms, only the (relatively infrequent) hurricanes.

Re:Tornado Strength? (4, Informative)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984496)

To clarify, the smallest hurricanes have a larger geographical footprint than the largest tornadoes. A hurricane cannot form in a small area, and a tornado cannot be that large; the difference is in intensity. Tornadoes have much faster winds. Despite this, hurricanes are a larger source of damage.

In fact, the largest losses to insurance due to tornadoes+hail+wind in a given storm is just over $2bn, which is a big yawn compared to a large hurricane loss. It wouldn't make the top 20. Average loss per year for insurers due to hurricanes in the US has been higher than that, in the last 15 years or so. (And insurers are better at not paying claims for hurricanes, since "storm surge" is excluded due to it being flood.)

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985434)

And hurricanes often spawn a very large number of tornadoes. It would be a rare hurricane that didn't spawn some of them.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

autocracy (192714) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984520)

You don't see the front door open in the video. The front shot of the house where you see movement through the door frame is actually showing the right side of the building snapping off the foundation.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984632)

The odds of any particular building getting smacked by a tornado are fairly small

Not when the tornado is tearing through a neighborhood. When an F2 ripped through my neighborhood (journal linked in another comment), few buildings came out unscathed. The damage is mostly from stuff flying through the air at 300 mph. The destruction the day after was unimaginable, and hard to describe. I saw huge I-beams twised, and it wasn't the wind that twisted them, it was heavy stuff hitting them at a high rate of speed.

I saw trees with six foot diameter trunks uprooted, roofs impaled by other roofs, five inch long splinters driven into cinderblock walls, high voltage transformers in treetops. There was little in my neighborhood that came out unscathed.

Re:Tornado Strength? (4, Informative)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984732)

Well, yeah, once something is happening, the odds of it happening are pretty high. Anyways, I'm not try to belittle tornadoes, I actually find them far more scary than a hurricane, because with a hurricane we have ample warning to get out of the way.

But for your average home in kansas or some other tornado prone state, the overall chance of that house being hit by a tornado in its lifetime are less than the odds of a house in florida to be impacted by a hurricane in its lifetime. That combined with the fact that designing to protect against hurricane force winds is a good bit easier than designing against tornado force winds has led to our society in general to decide that for most of our buildings, the costs of tornado proofing are not worth it.

Better to send the people underground or wherever is safe, and just let the tornado have its way with the buildings. Mother Nature wins that fight by default, we don't even try to step into the ring.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

ginbot462 (626023) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985004)

While I agree chances are small to be hit by tornado, even in a active area (I live in one - North Alabama). Building to minimize damage with something like ICF has other benefits as well. And tornado shelters make great meth labs! Wait, did I remember to ventilate mine ....

******

ICF -insulated concrete forms. I was tempted to leave it .. just to see what people interpreted it as.

Re:Tornado Strength? (2, Interesting)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986278)

A buddy with a construction company in Florida built his house as a 40 foot square (1600 sq. feet) with a pyramidal shaped roof (cathedral ceiling inside and all interior walls end at 9' high) so that there are no flat roof surfaces for the wind to build up agains. For the framing, there were the standard threaded rod ties coming up from the slab, through the footers of the wall, and bolted down but he also put additional ties running up from the slab all the way up through the outside walls, that then go through a 1/2" thick steel band that circles the entire top of the walls. This band was welded together so the walls are in compression between slab and band. The roof trusses are also welded/bolted to this band. The walls are basic OSB with decent insulation and waterproofing applied and vinyl siding (with construction adhesive on every piece. He's gone and made it as hurricane proof as possible. Of course, he has the polycarbonite coverings for all the windows.

He's also constructed separate building on his property as a workshop and store room. He went and built it just like his company builds walk in bank vaults. It has 12" of concrete all around and 2000 gals of rainfall collection. This is his tornado shelter. He did this second building last year as a way to keep his guys employed. Building trade in Florida has really taken a hit since the real estate crash.

Re:Tornado Strength? (1)

turkeyfish (950384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33988530)

Yet another effort by insurers to figure out what claims they can deny? For them, $100,000 a pop would be a good investment, if they can use the data to deny a single claim.

Beware of what you wish for in hurricane science.

Slow news day (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984222)

This news story blows.

First post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984224)

Woosh!

Testing homes (5, Funny)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984252)

Now, if they would just test homes made out of straw, sticks, and bricks and see if in fact, a straw house can be reinforced to withstand big bad wolf strength winds.

Re:Testing homes (0, Flamebait)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984274)

That test is a lot less expensive, what does Glen Beck get for giving a speech these days?

Re:Testing homes (-1, Redundant)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984402)

I would seriously pay big money that I usually spend on vacation to visit that place, and be able to throw the "on" switch. Preferably, a Dr. Frankenstein style switch.

But, before I throw the switch, I need to play the audio:

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in!"

"Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!"

"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in"

Re:Testing homes (1)

ColoradoAuthor (682295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984812)

But seriously, this would be a great opportunity to examine straw bale and other "alternate" construction technologies. It can be incredibly difficult to get construction plans for approved by authorities accustomed to stick-built construction; data showing superior performance in worst-case conditions might add some much-needed credibility.

homes made of wood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984258)

Stone and brick might add to the overall cost, but considering the rebuilding cost and insurance premiums, why are people still using wood ?

How cheap can it be to rebuild a home several times in a hurricane zone ?

Re:homes made of wood (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984320)

I always wonder this. Even in non-hurricane zones, houses in Europe (England & Germany is all I know about) are made of brick or poured/prefabbed concrete.

Why does it have to be so different over here? It's always boggled my mind with all the wooden houses going up. Even 'brick' houses are just wooden houses with a brick fascia( Yes, I know, some older buildings are proper brick).

Re:homes made of wood (1)

cappp (1822388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984338)

Its a lot cheaper, easier, and quicker to build homes out of wood, not to mention the ease of internal reconfiguration. It makes sense if you're in a county with rapid population expansion, especially if that country also prefers new and shiny to old and solid.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

Riddles (2787) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984418)

Sure, but then don't complain if the hurricane/tornado takes your house (or the neighbourhood) down.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984766)

A tornado can take down anything man is going to build above ground. None of the housing I saw in Germany was going to stand up to an EF3+ any better than your average track home. For an idea here's the description of what an F5 did in 1985 "At Wheatland Sheet and Tube, the asphalt was scoured off the parking lot, and shards of sheet metal and routing slips were left wedged beneath the remaining asphalt.".

Re:homes made of wood (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985516)

When wood structures fail in a hurricane, it is usually not the building materials that failed. The problem with many houses is that they are made up of a roof sitting on top of walls sitting on a floor. The individual roof, walls, and floors are pretty strong. The problem is how they are fastened together. For instance, in the video in the article, you see that bottom of the front wall is pushed in to the house. The wall itself stays intact. Then the whole house basically just slides off the foundation. It is also not uncommon to see an entire roof structure come off a house as a single unit. And that is why labs like this one are important - they allow testing of techniques used to hold things together. You'll notice that the second house in the video was also made of wood, and did not come apart.

Re:homes made of wood (4, Interesting)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984426)

How much cheaper, really? Let's take the example of having modular prefabbed floors & exterior walls that are available in many configurations so you have design freedom to build what you like. These prefabbed sections can be mass produced, cheaply, and the right combination shipped to the location. Once there, you flip it up, use whatever connection method is needed for the walls and lay down the interlocking floor sections. The prefab sections I saw near Munich even had insulation built into them.

With wood, the wood has to be processed, granted at a much lower cost than the concrete section fabbing. Then it has to be shipped just like the prefabbed. But then it changes - The amount of labour that goes in to laying floor joists, laying & fastening floor sheets (which all results in a boing-ey floor anyway), framing wall sections on the floor then raising them, then ultimately installing insulation and poly, is quite a lot more than I imagine an efficient prefab production line would be.

Note that I have no actual idea of the relative costs of anythign above, but i'm genuinely curious as i'm sure that an efficient prefab system could turn out cheaper, or at least on-par. Then you get the benefit of stronger houses. Oh and there's nothing to stop you doing the internal framing with wood/metal studs, so you still get the freedom to change/customise the internal layout.

I do agree, however, that pure brick or poured concrete buildings would be more expensive. I also agree that *right now* it would be more expensive as an efficient prefab infrastucture would need to be built up over time. With the "PROFIT NOW, NOT LATER!!!" mentality of businesses over here, this is not likely to ever happen.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984452)

I forgot to address "easier" and "quicker".

I think the prefab options I mentioned above would be both. It's quicker/easier to deliver and raise a wall rather than deliver, take 2*4's to the floor, build wall on the floor, raise wall, install insulation/poly when house is framed.

Re:homes made of wood (3, Interesting)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984686)

It's not that much quicker. A good framing crew can put the whole house up in a few days. It's weird when you're monitoring a job. The sitework seems to take forever and it doesn't look like that much is going on. Then the framing starts and in a couple days there's this big wooden house that appeared out of nowhere. And you think damn, this thing is like 80% done, we'll be finished in no time. Then all of the interior build-out starts, and it takes months and feels like it'll never end.

Also framing tends to be very mistake tolerant. If the designer or the builder did something wrong, it's generally not a big deal to tear it out and rebuild it better. All of the framing works together to provide strength to the house, so temporarily removing any single stud/joist/section of wall/whatever usually won't result in collapse, as there's plenty of redundancy in the structure.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987058)

Working with Habitat for Humanity, we can frame an entire 1400 sq foot house in a day. We can get the roof rafters up in another day. Third day gets sheathing up on walls and roof. Is something to see what 10-20 guys can do in a few days.

When our house was built, our contractor brought in a husband/wife team for the framing. They had the entire two story house framed in three weeks, all by themselves, except for a crane crew for the roof trusses.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984458)

And I forgot to mention another step of the wood-option. Fitting the sheathing to the exterior.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985090)

Prefab modular houses can be cheaper than stick built, and they generally have good hurricane resistance since they have to be able to be carried to their site by truck. Stick built is a known quantity, though, so people stick with it (pun intended).

If I were building a new home I'd either have it made in a modular factory or preferably, build a prefab LV - www.rocioromero.com.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987984)

You know, not all pre-fab modular structures are concrete. They come in steel or wood, too.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33988102)

I didn't know this. The ones I saw were prefab concrete.

I happen to *know* that the prefab concrete parts only come in concrete :)

Re:homes made of wood (1)

serialband (447336) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985542)

http://www.cement.org/homes/brief09.asp [cement.org]
According to the cement site, materials cost seem to not be that much more. Labor cost is almost double for normal concrete construction, but the pre-fab modular homes are not that much more. It seems quite feasable to shell out a bit more just so the home doesn't blow away each year. Why won't they do it in the hurricane and tornado prone areas?

When you add in insulation costs, it seems closer in price: http://www.cement.org/homes/ch_sb_solidinvest.asp [cement.org]
Since it's a cement site that did their own study, I doubt that it's that cheap. Even if it was 25% more, it's still a reasonable investment in hurricane & tornado zones. Something seems amiss in the mainland US mindset. It's probably why there's so many low quality Made in China junk in Walmart. I'd rather get something higher, quality and not have it break frequently.

Sure wood is definitely cheaper short term, but look at it long term. How often do you have to replace them each year. If the insurance companies were smart, they'd analyze the cost of concrete for those areas and the amount they'd pay long term. They already know the short term costs of constantly replacing homes during a hurricane. Maybe they have analyzed it and just make so much more short term money with the wooden structures and allowing the devastation and loss of life, that they wish to continue.

On the island of Guam, they get both 8.0+ earthquakes and up to Category 5 Typhoons(Hurricanes for non-US mainland pacific). After SuperTyphoon Pamela hit in 1976, homes were replaced with concrete. By the early 1980s they were pretty much all concrete. New homes there are all concrete and each new generation of new construction has better and easier to operate earthquake shutters. The buildings survive typhoons and earthquakes with minor, mostly cosmetic damage these days. No evacuations are required anymore. Everyone just rides out the typhoon in their homes. Granted, both wood and concrete have to be shipped to the island, but the heavier cement & gravel for concrete would still be a quite a bit more expensive to ship.

To make a concrete house look new, you just need to paint it and fix up the landscaping. I really don't see people tear down their house just to make it look new. For the internal walls, you can still use wood and reconfigure them quite easily. Only the exterior and load bearing interior structure has to be concrete. It's probably better, since some DIYer goof won't accidentally remove a load bearing wall and bring his own house down. The excuse for building with wood is just that, an excuse. There's lots of solidly built buildings that don't look old.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986618)

Also, at least in Tampa Bay area, just about all the brick buildings in the area had bricks shipped in from Georgia. There's very little clay available over most of Florida. Insulated Concrete Forms would be the way to go but the cost of concrete has been going up much faster than other building materials, as China expands it's infrastructure [theoildrum.com].

Re:homes made of wood (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984512)

In NZ, where wood is also very popular. It is often easier to comply with earth quake building codes. A house with give does much better than one that does not. Its easier to use wood for this.

However there are limitations. The vast majority of houses are 1 floor with the odd house with 2 floor. Once you hit 3 floors or more, prefab concrete and in place pored concrete become very common.

Re:homes made of wood (2, Interesting)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984644)

I always wonder this. Even in non-hurricane zones, houses in Europe (England & Germany is all I know about) are made of brick or poured/prefabbed concrete.

In England at least, this has a lot to do with the first building codes brought in after the Great Fire Of London [wikipedia.org] in 1666 . The codes specified non-flammable building materials, eg brick or stone.

To this day, almost all (if not all) houses are brick built, including the suburban tracts that would look familiar to Americans. AFAIK pre-fab concrete was a big thing in the 1950s-60s, mostly for government-built 'council houses' [wikipedia.org] and especially tower blocks (what a USian might call a 'project'). This method fell out of favour in the UK after a pre-fab concrete tower block partially collapsed after a gas explosion in 1968: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronan_Point [wikipedia.org]

Re:homes made of wood (1)

tom17 (659054) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984828)

Until recently, I thought that they were building from wood in the UK. There were some new houses built opposite my house when I was younger that were framed with wood. However, I recently found out that the insurance companies there won't touch wood houses and that there was a spate of building houses from wood in the 80's. That's about when those ones opposite went up. Maybe the codes were temporarily laxed?

As for the prefab, the type I was referring to was not for 'project' type council houses. This was for individual custom house builds. You wouldn't know it was a prefab build by looking at it. It just happened to be on my bike ride to work near Munich so I was watching with interest. The main structure (ground floor sections, ground floor walls, 1st floor sections, 1st floor walls) went up in, I kid you not, 2 days. I watched my wood-framed house in Canada being built and although I had the same 'fook me that was quick' feeling once the main framing started, it was by no means even comparable to the speed the prefab one in Munich went up.

These are just my observations.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

fridaynightsmoke (1589903) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985296)

there was a spate of building houses from wood in the 80's. That's about when those ones opposite went up. Maybe the codes were temporarily laxed?

If you mean what I think you mean there's some of those opposite my childhood home too, (almost exactly like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Builder's_tudorbethan.jpg [wikipedia.org] )- I thought the wood on the exterior was cosmetic with brick/something else underneath the wood and render. I might of course be wrong.

As for the prefab, the type I was referring to was not for 'project' type council houses. This was for individual custom house builds. You wouldn't know it was a prefab build by looking at it. It just happened to be on my bike ride to work near Munich so I was watching with interest. The main structure (ground floor sections, ground floor walls, 1st floor sections, 1st floor walls) went up in, I kid you not, 2 days. I watched my wood-framed house in Canada being built and although I had the same 'fook me that was quick' feeling once the main framing started, it was by no means even comparable to the speed the prefab one in Munich went up. These are just my observations.

I heard before that pre-fab was popular in mainland Europe. Probably the extensive use for council housing in the UK created a stigma for pre-fab that still exists here (along with render and almost anything not visibly brick).

Thinking about it, all of the buildings I can think of that have exposed wood like that mentioned above also have a lot of exposed brick as well, probably as 'reassurance' to buyers- "yes, it is brick-built". Even industrial or big retail buildings here that are obviously steel framed and clad have exterior brickwork up to the first floor level. I guess Brits 'like' and insist on brick.

Since you mentioned codes, I believe that the current UK codes do allow wood framed buildings, where I live now is genuinely part timber framed (its a strange building and too long a story for here). I would suggest that the enduring lack of new timber or prefab housing in the UK is a quirk of the national housing market, rather than any technical or regulatory reason.

Re:homes made of wood (2, Informative)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984404)

we just had a tornado in my part of NYC last month and only the trees fell down. all the homes are made of brick and concrete and all survived intact even though the tornado passed right over us.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

gartogg (317481) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984558)

It wasn't a tornado. Sorry. (I live in queens.)

It was just very windy in a place that isn't used to it. The wooden prefab apartments in flushing didn't fall down either - And they are basically all wood frame + sheet rock.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33992010)

Here we go again. We locals seem to have this argument a lot lately ;)

We're talking very separate regions, because the Bronx was affected by a different tornado that day too.

I'm just surprised there's no technology in New York to accurately detect tornados in advance. Kansas tornado chasers have advance warning, while NYC had to wait days after this storm before authorities even confirmed a tornado really hit. It's an outrage --how does Kansas ever manage?

It's not just that crummy Statue of Liberty 20 miles south that'll get blown up like in the movies. We aint safe anywhere

Re:homes made of wood (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33992064)

Here we go again. We locals seem to have this argument a lot lately ;)

We're talking very separate regions, because the Bronx was affected by a different tornado that day too. It's not just the boring Statue of Liberty 20 miles south that'll get blown up like in the movies. We aint safe anywhere

I'm just surprised there's no technology in New York to accurately detect tornados in advance. Kansas tornado chasers have advance warning and detailed satellite tracking, while NYC had to wait days after this storm before authorities even confirmed a tornado really hit. How does Kansas ever manage?

Re:homes made of wood (1)

vlueboy (1799360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33992096)

Here we go again. We locals seem to have this argument a lot lately ;)

We're talking very separate regions. The Bronx was confirmed to be affected by a different tornado that day. It's not just the boring Statue of Liberty 20 miles south that'll get blown up like in the movies. We aint safe anywhere.

I'm just surprised there's no technology in New York to accurately detect tornados. Tornado chasers have advance warning and detailed satellite tracking, while NYC had to wait days after this storm before authorities even confirmed a tornado really hit. How does Kansas ever manage?!

Re:homes made of wood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33992142)

Here we go again. We locals seem to have this argument a lot lately ;)

We're talking very separate regions. The Bronx was confirmed to be affected by a different tornado that day. It's not just the boring Statue of Liberty 20 miles south that'll get blown up like in the movies. We aint safe anywhere.

I'm just surprised there's no technology in New York to accurately detect tornados. Tornado chasers have advance warning and detailed satellite tracking, while NYC had to wait days after this storm before authorities even confirmed a tornado really hit. How does Kansas ever manage?!

Slashcode's empty-userID bug is back and chose to target me again, no matter what browser I use.

Re:homes made of wood (2, Interesting)

jburroug (45317) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985012)

The wooden frame house I'm living in now was built in the early 50's and has survived three hurricanes and several tropical storms. It creaked and groaned a bit, ok a lot, during Ike in 2008 but didn't suffer any damage. Not so much as a broken window. IIRC my neighborhood had sustained winds in 90mph range with recorded gusts up around 110mph. The house endured that beating for good four hours while the massive storm passed over.

Wood is much stronger than most people realize. The softwoods commonly used in home construction are also quite flexible and can deflect a lot before failing in a structural situation. When a wood frame house suffers a structural failure it's often somewhat graceful and the structure retains some of strength and doesn't just collapse on the people inside. A brick or concrete structure will hold up well until it hits a breaking point, then failure is complete and often catastrophic. Also concrete is ugly, I'd hate living in a concrete house.

Cheers,

Josh

Re:homes made of wood (3, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985342)

Correct. When you look at a wood structure failing (like in the video), you do not see wood being ripped apart or anything like that. What you see is that big structures are separated from each other. The structures remain intact (at least until they fly into something else). The problem is how the structures are fastened to each other (ie wall to floor and roof). Strapping the roof to the walls with metal instead of just using nails makes a big difference.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986006)

Also, after watching the video a few times, I think that the "normal" house was built in such a way to almost guarantee that it would fail catastrophically. There was no electrical wiring or plumbing, which while not being something that we rely on to be structural, would have held changed how the building collapsed. But most importantly, the interior of the house seems to have been completely devoid of gyp. board. Gyp. board serves as more than just a versatile wall covering, it also provides structural support, by creating diaphragms that help the structure against wracking. Often times, especially in hurricane areas, a structural engineer will take this further, by designating certain walls as shear walls, which have a layer of plywood under the gyp. board to provide an even stronger diaphragm.

Strapping is also a big deal, tying the building together vertically, although if the sheathing is laid out carefully and with the correct nailing pattern, it can do a lot of that work for you. I've seen some houses where there was giant threaded rods, maybe 3/4" diameter, and they ran the full height of the building, fastened at the bottom of the structure all the way up to the top plate of the second floor walls, one rod near each corner of the house. The contractors hated them, because they had to drill holes for it all the way down through the building, and inevitably there would be some plumbing or something in the way.

Re:homes made of wood (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986488)

Grew up in Florida, in a house from the late 60's. Never had any real damage other than losing a fair number of asphalt shingles on year 24 or a 30 year roof, back in '04. But it was a concrete block house, not OSB over wood.

Here in NM, I wanted to build a rammed earth house but the county permit requirements were so steep and demanding (even using bonded rammed earth contractors from next county over), ended up going with OSB over wood. Now that we're in the house, it's no problem to go and build rammed earth walls up against exterior walls and the permitting folks can go screw themselves!

Wake me when they have general disaster sim (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984260)

Nothing new here. When I was a kid I had a program that would simulate fires, tornadoes, air and boat crashes, earthquakes, nuclear disasters, and even Godzilla, for far less than $100,000 a pop.

Simulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984270)

If they wanted to see what the effect of a class 3 hurricane, they should come to my house and look at my kids rooms. Some people already think I was simulating an F5 tornado.

Re:Simulator (4, Interesting)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984378)

If they wanted to see what the effect of a class 3 hurricane, they should come to my house and look at my kids rooms. Some people already think I was simulating an F5 tornado.

I asked someone from Environment Canada what the difference between an F4 and F5 tornado was, his answer was "an F4 destroys everything, an F5 destroys everything and cleans up after itself". Given those parameters, it sounds like your kids are only simulating an F4. ;)

Re:Simulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33985198)

Then perhaps there should be an F6 rating created. That would be where the kids destroy the house and/or their rooms, and the parents clean up after them.

Re:Simulator (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987446)

There used to be an F6 rating. The Fujita scale originally went from F0 to F12 but everything over F5 was purely hypothetical; F5 itself meant maximum possible destruction so they just cut it off there.

Further reading [wikipedia.org] if you're interested. Personally, I find it fascinating.

Response to Global Warming? (1, Interesting)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984278)

This makes me wonder if they are doing this because scientists say that Global Warming will increase the strength and frequency of hurricanes, [usatoday.com] tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. [guardian.co.uk]

Why not try to combat the sources of global warming at the same time? Green, renewable energy might also help the insurance industry save money.

Re:Response to Global Warming? (2, Interesting)

klubar (591384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984486)

Actually the real issue that property insurance companies are concerned about is rising ocean levels. If you look at a map, much of the insured property is fairly close to a coast. Rising water levels will increase the frequency and severity of damage from floods and wind-driven water. Some insurance companies have stopped writing insurance in flood-prone areas and it's even going to get worse.

So yes, global warming is a real concern to insurance companies--as they are used to looking out many years on the risk premiums.

  (FYI, unless specifically purchased, most property insurance does not cover flood damage, but only damage from wind-driven water.)

Giant fans (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984282)

I saw this a couple of days ago under the headline "Hundreds of Giant Fans Rip House Apart". I thought it was talking about football fans.

Re:Giant fans (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33985544)

No, they're metal fans.

Awesome! Right? (3, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984376)

I am very confused with the replies I read here (see above).
My first thought when I heard about this was: Awesome! In big capital letters.

I am a fan of overpowered machines that dwarf anything else... and this is just really really big, and it was built with the sole purpose to destroy things... It's a really cool toy!

However, the average slashdotter seem to find quite a few things wrong with this... or they just make a joke about it (+1 for jokes).

Is there something wrong with me? Am I alone?

Re:Awesome! Right? (2, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#33987108)

For some reason it seems like it is much cooler or more respectable, these days, to hate on things than to be excited about them. In the existence of building a really big toy that rips shit apart, a lot of people will find fault with it being a big, wasteful, over-power-hungry, ego driven monstrosity. I find that, while this sentiment is reflected to some degree on slashdot, it is much calmer here than it is in many other cultural niches of society in general. Being the person that sees something and says, right off the bat, "Holy shit! That is amazing!" is, for whatever reason, taken to mean that the observer is gullible, stupid, or incapable of critical thinking. I can't really tell you why that trend seems so dominant in culture today (to me at least), but that's just what I've noticed.

For the record, as soon as I read the summary, my first thought was, "Fucking Epic!" Then I started thinking about all of the bad ideas that could go along with a machine like this that might involve a flying-squirrel suit and a helmet. So, no, you're not alone. =)

Re:Awesome! Right? (1)

Provocateur (133110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33990224)

Indeed awesome, but when you look for comments modded 3 to 5 informative or insightful, (or filter the low ones out from the git-go) you'd get a much more interesting discussion forum, with links too.

Mythbusters (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984396)

Wasn't that done by the Mythbusters last week? Only instead of a bunch of fans they used one jet engine. Yay! Efficiency!

Re:Mythbusters (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33985124)

Yes, and no.

The Mythbusters were testing a couple of StormChaser vehicles for wind survivability. They tested linear wind from the optimal direction the vehicle was designed for (I would have loved to see the fancier one with the struts turned 90 or even 180 degrees, because that vehicle was very specifically designed to only resist wind from a pretty specific direction).

This building looks like they can use the louvers over the fans to adjust wind direction (possibly even setting up some cyclone forces), and they can take an entire house and turn it to simulate wind from different directions.

Plus, this building can introduce wind-driven rain, floods, and even (after an upgrade next year) hail.

The Mythbusters have a win for efficiency because their test was much simpler.

South Carolina (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33984642)

By locating in South Carolina they will get to test the test building sooner or later with a real hurricane!

What a waste (1)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 3 years ago | (#33984856)

There's no reason for a hurricane to be anything more than a public nuisance. I lived under Wilma for a whole 48 hours (just leaving five years ago tonight as a matter of fact), and Emily only a few months before that. How did we prepare? Bought lots of beer (before they cut off liquor sales a full 36 hours before it hit, the bastards!), tied down the water tank on the roof and pruned a few trees (one still fell over anyway), probably didn't need to board up the windows. Power was back on in the center of town within 12 hours. Phones (land lines, cell phones worked right away) were another story, took a month. Most of our houses are concrete block with reinforced columns in the corners. More than sufficient to withstand a cat5. You don't need a study to figure that out. A note to you all up in New Orleans, it helps to build above sea level. But let's have a study to be sure. You are creating a bureaucratic paradise up there, but you still have some catching up to do :-)

I can tell you that hurricanes sound really cool.

Dome home test needed (1)

DodgeRules (854165) | more than 3 years ago | (#33986712)

I would love to see them test a dome home. They are supposed to withstand hurricane and tornado conditions. They are about the same cost to build (or so I have heard and read.)

Something is wrong with this picture (1)

Mad-cat (134809) | more than 3 years ago | (#33990518)

>"give the insurers the ability to carefully videotape"

If they're spending $100k per simulation, I would hope they could afford to upgrade to digital solutions.

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