A decade of value for commercial property protection.
The IBHS Research Center celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2020. Over the past decade, the Research Center has transformed the way in which IBHS members understand how severe weather can damage or destroy buildings, and how insurers and their policyholders can reduce this risk.
The uniquely designed test chamber allows for testing of one- and two-story commercial structures that include design features, materials and components of buildings that commonly house a variety of small- to mid-sized businesses, such as small office buildings, strip shopping centers, or franchise restaurants.
Historically, this kind of testing has required exceedingly small-scale models, often the size of a shoe box, in typical boundary layer wind tunnels. At these scales, simulation of all the important building features and the effects of the flow is often impossible, and additional analysis and engineering judgement is needed to assess the performance or real building materials to the measured wind forces.
Examples of typical commercial construction materials that can be tested at full scale include single-ply membranes, metal roofs, and flashing. In addition, tests often include significant components of larger commercial facilities―for example, roof-mounted equipment, solar panels, roller doors, and air conditioning units. The following is a brief summary of significant commercial research insights; additional details are available by following the links presented.
Roof-Mounted Equipment (RME) Insight
RME was among the first commercial building components tested at the Research Center. While standards for wind loads on RME in the ASCE 7-10 (2010) were found to be reasonable, minor modifications to these code provisions based on IBHS testing were incorporated into the 2016 version of ASCE 7.
Wind Loads on Low-Sloped Roofs Insight
This research into how wind forces are transferred through roofs and connections provided data to improve engineering models so that predicted performance from standardized tests is more representative of true windstorm performance. The full-scale capabilities of the IBHS wind tunnel allowed engineers to measure reaction loads at roof clips, which is not done at model scale because it is hard to replicate the right thickness, flexibility, rigidity or other material properties of specific components at model scale.
Photovoltaic (PV) High Wind Testing Insight
To date, this high-wind testing is still the most comprehensive investigation into wind performance of ballasted PV arrays typically found on commercial roofs. Information on lift and movement in wind speeds at or below design criteria was provided to IBHS members, along with guidance documents to help loss control engineers identify problems and conduct inspections following smaller wind events.
Roller Doors Insight
Large openings are a wind vulnerability and can lead to a cascade of failures to a commercial building. IBHS research is focused on identifying the most critical drivers of this vulnerability. We know that installation matters and to that end, we have shown that existing manufacturer guidance leads to inconsistent performance.
Patio/Sliding Doors Insight
Post-event assessments indicate the vulnerability of vertical openings to wind-driven rain. Testing is required to identify the drivers of this vulnerability and best paths for reducing risk due to wind-driven water intrusion.
Packaged Terminal Air Units (PTAC) Insight
PTAC units are individual air conditioner units found in hotel rooms, hospitality facilities, offices, healthcare facilities and condominium complexes. IBHS found that small changes in installation protocols can reduce water entry and produced members-only field inspection guidance to assist underwriters and loss control engineers in the field.
Architectural Screens and Roof-Mounted Equipment (RME) Insight
IBHS research, in cooperation with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), found that use of architectural screens reduced wind loads on RME. This insight will ensure appropriate wind load factors on both screens and RME are being used by designers, so that adequate attachment to the roof surface is specified. Often in many locations the equipment is not physically attached to the roof surface at all.
Wildfire Building-to-Building Spacing Insight
In collaboration with research colleagues, IBHS participated in a project where three full-scale structures were ignited and burned. Data collected as part of this experiment provided insight to wildfire ignition risk as a function of building separation. IBHS has been studying the effects of fire on exterior building components since 2011 and will be participating in structure separation testing with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and US Forest Service.
IBHS research on wildfire vulnerability has provided guidance that contributed to improved building codes and practices in wildfire-prone areas. To facilitate practical application of the insights from Research Center commercial testing, IBHS has developed a variety of tools for member companies, including loss control bulletins, inspection checklists, material selection guides, and maintenance best practices. Hands-on training and the Disaster Dynamics Academy program at the Research Center lets members “get inside the risk” to see the fire perils in action, and touch and feel their effects on the buildings they insure.
IBHS Asphalt Shingle Hail Impact Standard Insight
Consumers deserve to have confidence that products labelled as impact resistant live up to expectations. The existing industry test from UL hits shingles with steel ball bearings. IBHS hits shingles with realistic hail based on actual field observations and measures their performance so that our members can distinguish products based on their performance. Commercial testing has been scheduled. Additional roofing materials are being tested as part of this ongoing program.
Business Continuity Planning
IBHS created EZ-PREP to focus on the needs of small businesses before, during, and immediately after a severe weather event. EZ-PREP takes users through the chronological steps that are needed to secure the building envelope (roof, windows, walls, and doors), surrounding premises, furnishings and equipment, and other assets. It also identifies critical safety protections for employees who may need to remain on site.
On the operations side, IBHS’s “Open for Business” (OFB-EZ) program helps small businesses take the steps they need to keep functioning in the event of a major disaster or a smaller disruption. The goal is to help maintain critical operations and communications to reduce financial losses and keep businesses open even if their facilities are damaged. The OFB-EZ toolkit helps businesses understand the risks they face and document critical business processes; key employee, vendor, and customer contacts; information technology resources; and financial/insurance accounts and policies.