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According to Julie Rochman, on Oct. 7 a storm with gust wind speeds in excess of 100 mph is going to hit the rural community of Richburg, S.C. No, Rochman is not a psychic. She is the CEO and president of the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) in Tampa. The Institute’s mission is to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other property losses by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices. This fall, IBHS will open a state-of-the-art, multi-hazard testing and research facility in Richburg to more accurately evaluate various residential and commercial construction systems, materials and structures. The Oct. 7 “storm” will give visiting CEOs of the founding insurance companies a first look at the scope of testing the center will provide. The center was a longtime dream of many in the insurance industry, but the effort to build an insurance industry-owned and operated facility began in earnest at the end of 2007 when Rochman, who used to work at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), took the helm at IBHS. IBHS members had been discussing how IBHS could have the same impressive, favorable impact in the residential and commercial property loss area that IIHS has had in the area of automotive safety. A $40 million fundraising target was set for the IBHS project in early 2008, and as of today, IBHS has over $33 million in commitments from primary carriers of all sizes, global reinsurers, and large insurance brokers/intermediaries. To close a $9 million funding gap, in 2009 IBHS issued $9 million of tax-free bonds through the South Carolina Joint Economic Development Authority, so that construction could proceed. The bonds are being paid down as fundraising edges closer to the $40 million goal. “The IBHS Research Center is a tangible, very public demonstration of the property insurance industry’s deep commitment to reducing and preventing losses that disrupt the lives of millions of home and business owners each year,” Rochman said. “The building science conducted will demonstrate the effectiveness, affordability and true long-term cost-savings of better-built structures for individual homeowners and society at large.” Disaster Creators at Work With the help of 105 fans, each 5-1/2 feet in diameter, the research center will be able to accurately create Category 1, 2 and 3 hurricane-force winds, extra-tropical windstorms, thunderstorm frontal winds, wildfires and hailstorms within its 21,000 square-foot test chamber. The laboratory’s 750,000-gallon water tank will supply the test chamber’s 200 nozzles, which can spray 5,000 gallons of water on a building in 15 minutes. “In addition to wind alone, wind-driven water is going to be a major focus of the work we do,” said Dr. Timothy Reinhold, the IBHS senior vice president of research and chief engineer. “Researchers have found that while some buildings may survive a major storm with little structural damage, their interiors are so damaged by rainwater they must be gutted.” The water tank also serves the custom-designed fire suppression system, necessary for IBHS engineers to conduct tests to replicate wildfire in the lab. To generate firebrand showers, researchers will utilize a long, deep trench in the test chamber, just in front of the fan inlet area, where mulch-burning equipment will be placed to create embers typical of a wildfire. These embers will be ducted into the wind stream to create realistic, windy conditions surrounding a structure when a wildfire passes through a community. “Wildfire is a serious risk in 38 states around the country, threatening about 120 million people and their property,” said Rochman. “The number of destructive, expensive wildfires continues to rise, and whether a particular property survives a wildfire may depend largely on what people do to prepare. The results of our wildfire research will help property owners take control and minimize their risk by making their homes and businesses more wildfire-resistant.” Each year six to 10 structures, homes and commercial buildings will be built on-site and tested to assess their ability to resist the perils being simulated in the laboratory. In addition, several standard frames will be used to allow the researchers to plug in sections of walls and roofs as part of specific research programs designed to look at the performance of particular building systems and materials. These buildings will be transported into the massive test chamber, where they will be bolted down to as many as 52 anchor points on a remotely controlled, 55-ft. diameter turntable. From there, Dr. Reinhold and Dr. Anne Cope, IBHS’ director of research, will test structures against the worst Mother Nature has to offer. “At the IBHS Research Center we will learn how to substantially reduce some of Mother Nature’s most potentially devastating impacts on residential and commercial property. The research findings generated by the work undertaken at this lab will enable a quantum leap forward for residential and commercial building design, engineering, and construction, as well as retrofitting of existing structures,” Rochman said. “Our findings will be pushed out the door in the form of reports published in technical journals, or through other more general media outlets.” On the public policy front, testing will provide credible ways to favorably inject property loss prevention into broader policy discussions (e.g., green/environmental issues). Research findings will provide an objective, sound foundation for the development of solid public policy, such as enhanced building codes. Finding Practical Solutions All of the testing will be captured on high-speed, high-definition digital cameras. A variety of sensors will be used to monitor things such as building deformation, the initiation of failures, wind pressures, and water intrusion and accumulation. The video and instrumentation along with first-hand, post-test inspection of the test specimens will allow IBHS researchers to determine what works and what does not work with respect to preventing property damage during a disaster. The facility’s initial research focus will address roofs and roofing-related issues such as:

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