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7/30/2012 - Common commercial construction standards fall short in high-wind simulation

Reinforced masonry and other enhancements can improve buildings' wind resistance.

A recent demonstration appears to have confirmed the utility of using wind-resistant methods for commercial buildings.

The lab test, which was carried out by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety in their state-of-the-art, multi-risk applied research and training center, involved two one-story masonry buildings, one of which was built using common building techniques and materials, while the other was built with an eye toward wind-resistance, using roll-up doors with wind locks and other enhancements such as properly reinforced masonry walls. The researchers then simulated heavy wind gusts, which reached speeds greater than 135 mph, on both of the buildings.

They found that the reinforced building exhibited no significant performance failures, while the other building foundered in several respects, as side walls collapsed, roof flashing was unsuccessful at 73 mph and the roll-up door couldn't withstand 115 mph gusts.

"This test clearly demonstrates that for less than 5% of the total cost of construction - which is less than the sales tax was on the building materials themselves - we can build stronger, safer commercial buildings that can better withstand the kinds of high winds experienced during severe thunderstorms and hurricanes," said Julie Rochman, IBHS President and CEO.

Damage from heavy wind gusts has become more of a problem for businesses in recent years. ISO Property Claims Services notes that companies sustained $2 billion in commercial and property insurance losses from wind in 1989. In 2009, that total surpassed $7 billion.

Additionally, a particularly active week for windstorms in April of last year caused close to $5 million in physical damage losses for commercial and industrial properties nationwide, AIR Worldwide reveals.

To see videos of the wind tests, click here.

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